J&K ultras check I-cards; kill 4 Sikhs, 1 Hindu
22 November 2000
Jammu: Five minority community members were massacred and six others injured near Banihal on Jammu-Srinagar national highway, about 170 km north of Jammu on Tuesday night. This is the first major incident of violence after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced a ceasefire for the Muslim holy month of Ramzan. According to Inspector General of police (Jammu Zone) R V Raju, a group of about 10 militants wearing army uniform stopped the trucks coming from Srinagar at two different places near Banihal between 8 pm and 9 pm. The militants were armed and had wireless sets with them giving the appearance of army soldiers. They stopped the civil trucks and segregated Sikhs and Hindus after seeing their identity cards. These drivers were then lined up and shot at indiscriminately from point blank range killing five and injuring six others. Out of the killed four are Sikhs and one Hindu. The killed drivers include one from Baramulla in Kashmir while others are from Punjab. The eyewitnesses told the police that the Muslim drivers were let off but only after taking away money from them. The militants later vanished in the nearby jungles taking advantage of the darkness during night. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the massacre but police believes that ''it is the work of militants'' active in the area. ''We have some clues about the group involved in the massacre. The matter is under investigation,'' the police said. The security forces have launched massive search and cordon operation in the adjoining mountainous forest to catch the killers. This is the first major incident of violence after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee''s ceasefire announcement made on Sunday instructing security forces to halt all operations against the militant groups during the holy month of Ramzan. Almost all the major militant outfits have rejected the offer and threatened to escalate violence. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah has condemned the ''gruesome killings of truckers'' by the militants on Jammu-Srinagar national highway. He said, ''Militants won''t achieve anything by spilling blood of innocents,'' and added that the latest incident has ''fully exposed the ugly face of elements inimical to peace, who emerge with their inhuman tactics whenever any hope for restoration of normalcy is rekindled in the State.'' Describing it as an act against the growing peoples'' movement for peace he hoped that ''such brutal and highly condemnable acts of pro-Pakistan elements will not be allowed to succeed.'' He conveyed deepest condolences to the bereaved families saying that they were not alone in the hour of grief. State Governor Girish Chander Saxena while condemning the incident described it as ''senseless act of enemies of peace''. He expressed sympathies with the bereaved families and conveyed his personal condolences. It is the second incident of killing of drivers on highway. Five Hindu drivers were killed in the same fashion near Qazigund in February this year. That followed strong protest demonstrations by the transporters who suspended the carriage of supplies to Kashmir valley for few days. They resumed their sorties to Kashmir only after Government assured them security. Three-hundred kilometres long Jammu-Srinagar national highway that meanders its way through high mountains, is the only life-line connecting Kashmir to rest of India. Several hundred vehicles including trucks move up and down daily carrying supplies to Kashmir and also to Ladakh region. The highway is important from security angle also as security convoys move to and fro the highway daily. Hence Army is primarily responsible for the security of Jammu-Srinagar highway and also other important roads. Army clears the highway every morning for movement of security convoys. But militants have, several times, managed to target the security vehicles moving on the road, inflicting losses.