| A soldier speaks on a wireless set in Tharnu village near Srinagar where militants are holding seven civilians hostage. (PTI)
Srinagar, Oct. 20: When Pramod Kumar Yadav, the officiating commanding officer of the Border Security Force’s 43 battalion, stepped out on a routine patrol on Friday morning, he had little idea that a protracted gun-battle awaited him.
Moving along the road near the official residence of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Yadav heard gunshots coming from gate no. 2 of the chief minister’s house around 10 am.
He rushed there and found two of his troopers lying in a pool of blood. Even before the officer could inspect the damage, a grenade exploded near his vehicle. His soldier’s instinct made him rush for cover and it was a while before Yadav realised he had been wounded.
“My boys immediately took out the first-aid box and bandaged my bleeding wounds. Then we rushed to the nearby Dr Ali Jan Shopping Complex where the (two) militants had entered after attacking BSF troopers near the chief minister’s residence. They were hurling grenades and firing from automatics. After an initial review of the situation, I ordered my guards to encircle the building till reinforcements arrived,” Yadav recalls.
The two fidayeen had rushed to a hotel after their attempt to storm Mufti’s house was thwarted. They moved to the three-storeyed shopping complex that houses shops, offices and a parking lot thereafter, engaging the soldiers in a gun-battle that only ended 24 hours later when they were shot dead.
The chief minister was not present at home when the attack occurred, but his daughter Mehbooba Mufti and other family members were inside. None of them was hurt.
The reinforcements that Yadav was waiting for eventually arrived and the entire area was sealed off as security forces tried to flush out the militants.
“The DIG (deputy inspector-general), BSF and senior police officers in the meantime arrived and we immediately finalised a strategy on how to deal with the situation. It was during that period that I got a message from my boss that many civilians were trapped inside the building. This was a big challenge. After a change of strategy we decided to evacuate the trapped civilians, which included seven trainees of a computer centre (on the third floor),” Yadav said.
“Our efforts bore fruit when we succeeded in evacuating three civilians from a showroom inside the complex. Then we evacuated five more and finally the trainees,” the officer said.
Yadav was struck by a bullet in his left hand while the trainees were being evacuated. “The bullet is still lodged in my hand. I needed medical help and after first-aid I returned to the complex as I knew the area well and had no option but to lead my men,” he added.
“Early on Saturday we launched the final assault and my boys shot dead one militant while the other continued to hurl grenades and firing on us. We managed to reach the third floor and shot dead the fidayeen,” Yadav said.
Yadav was first posted in Kashmir in the early 1990s. “I was posted in the north Kashmir apple town of Sopore during the turbulent days of early 1990 when Sopore was the hotbed of militancy,” he added.
Yadav, who also received five splinter injuries during the shootout, said he had high fever, besides the bullet lodged in his hand. “I am on antibiotics and doctors are preparing me for surgery,” said the restless officer, who is still in pain.