At 5 pm on Saturday, Raja Begum, in her fifeties, sat beside her husband Ghulam Rasool Kachroo on the veranda of their house facing Srinagar-Bandippora road at Mujgund on the outskirts of Srinagar city.
Minutes before she had stocked goods worth Rs 60,000 and Rs 10,000 cash inside the provisional store she ran to support her family.
Little did she know everything would be up in flames. “We lost everything overnight. We could recover only clothes we wear and nothing else,” she says as a group of women surround her and express their sympathies with the family.
Kachroo’s house was among the five houses damaged by the government forces during an 18-hour gunfight in which three militants were killed.
With his eyes fixed on the burnt belongings, Kachroo attended visitors in the courtyard of his house, while Raja narrated the sordid tale to female relatives and neighbours.
Kachroo family was looking for a match to marry off their children. Now the family is thinking of rebuilding the destroyed house and shop.
Raja says she regrets not being able to save gold ornaments and clothes of her unmarried daughters and son.
“We toiled for years to save money to buy the gold ornaments, necklaces, bangles, rings and clothes for their marriage. Now, we don’t have even a plate to eat,” she said.
Kachroo, the father of five, was puffing Hookah when he saw Army men surrounding his house.
“Leave immediately, leave immediately...They shouted at us,” he recalls them telling him.
Panicky Kachroo could only think of taking his old-aged mother to safety.
“We caught hold of her and left the house,” said Raja.
She says they fled to a nearly locality and watched from a distance the destruction of their house by bullets and shells.
“It was like a war. The government forces used heavy ammunition. When we returned, there was nothing left,” Raja said grieving.
Now Raja, Kachroo and their three unmarried children have nowhere to go in this bone-chilling winter.
Kachroo’s two other sons, Javid Ahmad and Muhammad Ashiq and his son-in-law Farooq Ahmad also live next to them. Although, their houses are intact, bullets hit walls and windows of their houses too.
Among the victims is also Ghulam Muhammad Lami, 50, whose family, comprising his wife and three children, too lost everything in the gunfight.
Lami, a shopkeeper, not only lost his provisional store but his house and the gold ornaments worth lakhs and clothes of his daughter Saima.
Lami too spent the night far from his house when it caught fire during gunfight.
“It was a night of horror. We couldn't recover even a cup. Everything turned into ashes,” he says.
The scene at the house of Muhammad Ashraf Mir was no different.
Mir, a tailor, had shifted to the house along with his seven-member family seven months ago.
“Building the house was hard work of so many years,” says Mir’s son, a labourer.
Four years ago, when Bashir Ahmad Dharma constructed a house at Mujgund, he felt a breather as the family of eight saw themselves in a new shelter.
Dharma, who sells vegetables and fruits, had bought timber, tin sheets and other items in advance to construct the second storey of his house next spring.
“Who knew everything will be razed? We couldn't save even a needle,” he says.
On Monday, local volunteers laid a piece of cloth and sat on the highway to receive monetary contributions for the devastated families.
The destruction of houses in gunfights has become common with the government forces taking down the entire structures with heavy ammunition while fighting militants.