Death Comes Calling At Wedding, Turns Celebrations To Gloom
5 May 2005
The Indian Express
Jammu: Death intruded like a unwanted guest in the marriage party at Thakrakote village of Reasi tehsil in Udhampur district, turning celebrations into mourning yesterday night. Hours after the militant attack which left two teenaged girls dead and 17 injured and the marriage postponed in the hinterland village, Dev Raj, a brother of the would-be-bride, Gupta Devi, was still on his toes. The only difference, is that yesterday evening, Raj was running around to see that the baraatis had proper meals, and today he was running after doctors at the Government Medical College (GMC) Hospital here to get a word about the well being of his injured relatives. It was at 9.30 pm yesterday, Raj recalls, that the groom and other members of the marriage party after having their dinner were relaxing, while the priest prepared for the lagan. But suddenly the loud bang of a grenade followed by the clatter of Kalashnikovs broke the silence in the hilly village. Next moment, Dileep Raj, the groom jumped into a 10-feet deep ditch to save himself from the flying bullets, while the other people ducked behind boulders or walls of nearby houses to save their lives. 'After that cries and screams of women and children rent the air. For a moment, I felt numbness in my limbs. But the next moment I leaped towards my room and picked up the service rifle of my father to open fire in the direction of the militants who were firing indiscriminately at us,' says Dev Raj. Writhing in pain on the hospital bed, Rajo Devi narrates how the flying splinters killed her sister. Rajo Devi was sitting among guests when a sudden flash of light followed by a deafening sound made her fall unconscious. 'A few minutes later I heard someone among the injured crying for water. Before I could reach out to Nimmo, she had succumbed to her injuries,' says Devi in a choked voice. On the other bed lay Jatti, whose eyes filled with tears as doctors in the emergency ward tore her shirt to nurse the wounds on her arm. With no police and security personnel reaching the area till today morning, it was the VDC members, who for the whole night had to keep the militants engaged with the available fire power. At one stage, the VDC members say they had lost hope of saving the marriage party. 'My hands started trembling the moment I discovered that only a single bullet was left with me. Thank God before I could use that one, the militants had fled,' says Dev, a VDC member, heaving a sigh of relief. While villagers were busy in thwarting the militant attack, one Preeti Singh, a medical assistant from the area without caring for his life started working to save the lives of the injured by administering pain killer injections and other medicine to them. 'It was because of Preeti's medicine that I could pass the whole night. Otherwise I would have died of pain,' says Shakuntala Devi, whose right arm is riddled with bullets. Before landing, the sound of the hovering chopper today morning brought a smile on the faces of the injured, who for the whole night had been praying for help. Villagers thanked God as the stretcher bearers put the wounded into the chopper, said a villager. 'My sister can tie the nuptial knot some other day. Right now, more important for me, is to see that all the injured get well,' says Dev Raj when someone at the hospital asked him about the postponement of the marriage due to militant attack.