March 2000 News

35 Sikhs massacred in Anantnag

21 March 2000
Daily Excelsior

CHITHI SINGHPORA: Biggest ever massacre of the twelve-year-old Kashmir militancy took place at this largest Sikh population village of Anantnag district last evening as militants speaking Punjabi and in Army uniform shot dead as many as 35 civilians, all from the minority Sikh community. In protest, members of the outraged community from all over the Valley assembled here today and shouted slogans not only against Pakistan but also against the ruling National Conference (NC) Government which, they alleged, was a ''failure'' and had no will to curb militancy. With pent up emotions, the mob even attacked the Cabinet Ministers Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Shah and Ali Mohammad Sagar and police rescued them with automatic gunfire. According to senior police officials, a group of over two dozen foreign militants appeared at this sleepy village - 71 km from Srinagar and 8 km from Mattan - at 7.45 p.m. last evening and took out the male members of the Sikh community from their homes. Wearing Army uniform, they described themselves as security forces personnel and asked the men to come out for an identification parade. As the people assembled at the premises of two Gurudwaras, the gunmen opened heavy indiscriminate fire, killing 34 men on spot. Two persons with critical injuries were, later, rushed to hospital but one of them died before reaching the operation theatre. Chithi Singhpora is situated in the militant-infested Shangus belt of Anantnag district. According to residents, this is the largest Sikh population village in south Kashmir and none of the 1500 Sikhs or 200 Muslims had ever got killed here in the 12-year-long militancy. The cold-blooded carnage has occurred at a time when a number of officials were still away with their Eid celebrations and Holi - the festival of colours - was being celebrated by the Hindu community in Jammu and other localities. Even DIG Anantnag Raja Aijaz Ali was busy with his Eid in the summer capital and DC Anantnag Pawan Kotwal had gone to the winter capital for enjoying Holi. A section of Kashmiri Muslims were simultaneously preparing for the festival of Nauroz, which was modestly celebrated today under a pall of gloom. While as the SSP Anantnag Farooq Khan had reached the spot, with a contingent of police and security forces, a little after massacre, over 200 vehicles of senior officials and Government functionaries made a bee-line to this farflung village today. Minister of Housing and Urban Development Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Shah, Minister of Works Ali Mohammad Sagar, MoS Home Mushtaq Ahmed Lone and NC leader Sheikh Ghulam Ahmed Saloora were at the receiving end of the public wrath when this writer reached the spot. Angry Sikh youths confronted the NC ministers and shouted that Dr Farooq Abdullah’s Government had not only failed to curb militancy but also made ''everybody insecure'' in the Valley. The mob did not allow the NC leaders to enter the Gurudwara premises for having a look at the 35 bullet-riddled dead bodies. ''You rigged the elections (in 1987) and militancy was born out of it'', youngsters shouted on Mr Shah and held him responsible for the unending gun culture in the State. The elderly politician listened to the furious mob calmly and tried his best to pacify them with a reassurance. Nobody paid attention to the junior Home Minister Mushtaq Lone who was in company of some police officials at a deserted spot. However, the mob gheraoed Messrs Shah and Sagar and the slogan-shouting culminated into beating of the vehicles. As the mob damaged some parked vehicles, including that of Mr Shah and one of a journalist, police and security personnel fired several shots in air to disperse the agitated groups. They dispersed and assembled at the Gurudwara. The atmosphere was extremely surcharged and some people had even beaten up two mediapersons. Director General of Police Gurbachan Jagat, Additional DGP (Law & Order) PS Gill, IGP Kashmir Dr Ashok Bhan, Divisional Commissioner Khursheed Ahmed Ganai and other officials were watching the situation helplessly. As the local cleric, Giani Rajinder Singh, approached MoS Home Mushtaq Lone and demanded protection for all Sikh population villages of the Valley, others shouted on the former: ''Whom are you talking to?'' While as the Congress leader Ms Mehbooba Mufti was the only mainstream politician who managed to reach the spot of dead bodies, it was only Corps Commander Lt Gen Krishen Pal and GOC of Victor Force, Maj Gen RK Kaushal, who were allowed into the Gurudwara. Later, the message also came to the DGP who walked into the premises alongwith Mr Gill. Agitated and outraged groups of the Sikhs poured into the village from almost all the Sikh localities of the Valley. They shouted anti-Pakistan slogans, carried black banners and trooped into the village while yelling: ''Khoon ka badla khoon se lenge''. The turbaned flocks came on foot, on two-wheelers, cars and buses. Most of them said they were not too coward to flee the Valley but quite a number of them looked harrassed. They said that the community would take the collective decision (as to how to react and deal with the new situation) at Srinagar as some religious leaders were expected to reach here from Amritsar. ''In case nobody (among Central Government officials and ministers) came here from Delhi, we will take the dead bodies to Amritsar'', they told Mushtaq Lone. However, late in the afternoon, the crowds relented on the arrival of the State BJP leader and Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Prof Chaman Lal Gupta who pacified them and assured them that the Central Government would leave no stone unturned in protecting the Sikh community. Gupta, as also the CPI(M) leader Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami explained to the crowds that escalation of tension would be nobody’s benefit. They exhored them to maintain peace and traditional communal harmony with the members of the majority Muslim community and do nothing in emotion which would align the Kashmiri Muslims with militants. They said terrorists had no religion and, as such, none of the communities were responsible for the massacre. Later, all the dead bodies were cremated with religious rituals and heart-rending scenes of mourning by the left over children and women folk. When this writer and other journalists reached the village, all and sundry interviewed held the militants responsible for the same. There was unequivocal resentment against foreign militants who, according to the villagers, used to visit their houses and often took their tea. ''Finally they didn''t spare even the village headman Naseeb Singh at whose house they would always take tea'', said a villager. Others said that an ex-serviceman, Charan Singh, had informed the security force regarding the militants'' frequent visits to the village but they did not act untill Charan Singh himself was eliminated in the Monday evening massacre. Khem Singh, who survived the massacre, told EXCELSIOR that it was a group of about 40 gunmen in Army uniform who appeared and ordered male members of the families to assemble at two Gurudwaras. He said the ''commandant'' was openly drinking liquor and quite a number of his men looked drunk. Suddenly, there was simultaneous firing. Twenty men were killed at Gurudwara Samundari Hall and fifteen others at Gurudwara Shokeenpora. After the shoot-out, the marauders left while chanting ''Jai Hind'', ''Jai Mata Di'' and ''Jai Bajrang Bali Ki''. The slogans, uniform and the commander''s displaying the bottle of liquor are widely believed to be a camouflage so that Army could be held responsible. While massacre toll stood at 35, a woman Devinder Kour later died of heart attack. Families wiped out Septuagenarian Fakir Singh has now no male member of family. Gunmen have shot him dead alongwith two sons and two grandsons. A 2-year-old baby is the lonely survivor. Late Jagir Singh’s four family members including two brothers and two of their sons have been eliminated in the massacre. Similarly, the gunmen have liquidated two of Sobha Singh’s sons and Ragunath Singh alongwith his son-in-law. Condemnation in Valley As the news of the massacre spread this morning, south Kashmir district of Anantnag observed a spontaneous bandh in protest. Almost all shops and business establishments remained closed. Transport also remained off the road. Shops were also closed in some localities of the capital city. Shia Muslims observed the Nauroz with modesty and there was total gloom and melancholly in the Valley. Kashmir Passengers Transport Welfare Association condemned the incident and called for a Chakka Jam for two days, beginning tomorrow. Leaders of all mainstream political parties including Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Shah, Ali Mohammad Sagar, NC general secretary Sheikh Nazir Ahmed, Ms Mehmooba Mufti and Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami condemned the incident and described it as an unprecedented inhuman act. According to local newsagency, even a spokesman of Hizbul Mujahideen condemned the massacre. Meanwhile, the detained president of the separatist Democratic Freedom Party, Shabir Shah, also condemned the massacre through a statement and described it as a conspiracy of the ''anti-movement elements'' to smudge the image of freedom-fighters and Kashmiri Muslims through out the world. List of dead Rajinder Singh (42), Karnail Singh (35), Rajan Singh (40), Naranjan Singh (50), Gurdeep Singh (25), Ajeetpal Singh (22), Joginder Singh (26), Gurbax Singh (35), Uttam Singh (30), Surjit Singh (22), Majit Singh (30), Devinder Singh (18), Rajinder Singh (35), Reshpal Singh (40), Gurmeek Singh (35), Sukha Singh (53), Ravi Singh (38), Jangbhadur Singh (36), Rajdeep Singh (18), Naseeb Singh (50), Kulbeer Singh (20), Darban Singh (28), Deader Singh (50),Gurmeet Singh (22), Ujal Singh (28), Charan Singh (50), Sartaj Singh (30), Rajnath Singh (45), Faqir Singh (65), Karnail Singh (45), Sheetal Singh (66), Ravinder Singh (22), Jagdesh Singh (25), Sagir Singh (60) and Sartaj Singh (26). One Devinder Kaur died of heart attack following the massacre. Lashkar, HM behind killings A combined group of Pakistani mercenary outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul-Mujahideen had carried out last night’s massacre of 35 Sikhs in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir, Brajesh Mishra, National Security Advisor, said here today. Mishra told reporters that the Government had evidence that the militant group was led by top Lashkar commander Abu Mahas. He said Hizbul-Mujahideen militants involved in the attack belonged to the Maulvi faction. Clinton, President, PM condemn massacre US President Bill Clinton today joined his Indian counterpart K R Narayanan and other leaders in expressing outrage over the massacre of 35 Sikhs in south Kashmir last night, with Clinton saying that the violence must end. Prime Minister A B Vajpayee said the killings were further evidence of ethnic cleansing that has been under way for a decade in Kashmir. The nation and the entire civilised community is outraged at the premeditated act of barbarism, Vajpayee said at a joint press conference with Clinton. Clinton said we share your outrage and heartbreak at last night’s brutal attack in Kashmir. The massacre reminds us of what tremendous suffering India has been undergoing, he said, adding the violence must end. This is the time for restraint. Naryananan said this latest instance will open the world’s eyes to the sordidness of terrorism which does not mind spilling innocent blood in order to coerce civil society and make an impact on the world. Home Minister L K Advani said there appeared to be a deliberate design to cleanse the Valley of Sikhs after militants had carried out similar operations against Hindus.

 

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