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Doda - Ethnic Cleansing continues

Special Correspondent

The terrorist campaign left behind a trail of killings of the local minority community in the hilly district of Doda on the intervening night of August 1 and 2. The separatists gunned down 12 people at Kunda Pogal, two at Darzen Ghat, Uglen, four at Kharwan and at least ten in Hansraj Top area of Banihal. Objective-ethnic cleansing.

Sources revealed that a big group of around 30 militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Toiba and Harkat-ul-Ansar had been assigned the task of carrying out the massacre of minorities in the Pogal-Banihal belt. The terrorists divided themselves into three groups to attack simultaneously around 9.30 PM the Hindu community at Kunda, Kharwan and Gagwal Maligam villages of Pogal area.

The maximum casualties occurred at Kunda Pogal, where 11 people, including two members each of a family were killed. Nine heavily armed militants, wearing army fatigues reached Kunda Pogal, 15 kms from the Banihal township and knocked at the doors of some houses introducing themselves as army jawans.

Once inside, male folk, which included Sewa Singh, Raj Hari, Sita Ram, Pyar, Ajit, Suram, Ashok, Thakur and Sher Singh were asked to move to an under construction building of one Sarpat. Indiscriminate fire killed them on the spot. Many of the villagers had managed to leave their homes in time, immediately after hearing the sound of first gun shot and returned home half an hour after the gruesome incident. Survivors, which included mostly women were bitter against security forces for showing indifference once again. Sewa Singh, who was posted as judicial clerk at Ramban had come home to solemnize the marriage function of his daughter, scheduled for the next day.

Another group of four militants went to Darzen Ghat, Uglen and abducted Ashok Singh, a 10th Class student and Chakkar Chand of Chenani, from their houses. They took them to the village primary school building, subjected them to inhuman torture and shot them dead at about 4.30 in the morning. At Kharwan Sewa Singh, Om Singh, Bishan Singh, Vishnu were killed din similar fashion.

A dozen militants appeared in Hans Raj Top area, 25 kms from the National highway late in the night. They went to Gujjar Nagar adjoining Chapkani, forcibly entered some houses and gunned down atleast ten persons, including Bharat Singh, Ram Rattan, Chuni Singh, Thakur Dass, Prem Singh Katoch and his three unidentified relatives. Reports said the terrorists after committing the massacre escaped into the adjoining forests of Banihal.

It was only in the morning that Brig Mohinder Singh of 11 Sector RR and Additional SP Ramban Rajesh Yadav rushed to Pogal area, many hours after death visited these unfortunate people in most inhuman and barbaric manner. Residents of these villages held strong demonstrations against laxity in the security by the administration. The government had not even set up VDCs in this area. This despite the fact that the people of the area had tipped the security forces about the movements of militants in Kunda area of Pogal on July 30. They had reported that large groups of militants were freely roaming in the area.

Subsequently, the troops had launched an operation, in which one militant Mohd Sarfraz Ahmed of Falwal, Gujrat of Pakistan was killed, whereas three others had escaped. But security forces dropped the chase midway and returned to their base camp. Same night militants struck killing people at Kunda, Kharwan, Hansraj Top. Kunda is only 20 minutes walk from Hansraj top (Maligaon), whereas Kharwan is a nearby village.

Security forces and the administration were totally complacent about the security of the minority community, arguing that no massacre had taken place in the area. Militants used to move in far off Sarwadhar range and come to villages only for ration and other essential commodidites.

On August 6 another massacre was averted by the alertness of villagers. A group of militants knocked at doors of Mukund Ram at Digdole, Ramsu on Srinagar-Jammu National Highway. It was 1 AM. Villagers did not respond and raised alarm which drew Major Padma Kumar and Lt AP Singh of nearby camp of 49-ADR. Terrorists fled away, on seeing the security forces men.

Following these incidents, three hundred families from Doda and Banihal villages have migrated. Families from Ganpatta, Khour Bridge and Handwa villages migrated to Doda town, while others have moved to Ramban.

Terrorists have also been threatening VDC members to surrender rifles or face reprisals. During the past one month the scare has increased and at least ten VDC members belonging to Mangota, Batungal and Kanthi villages surrendered their rifles. But this has not deterred other villagers to demand setting up of VDCs and recruitment of local youth as SPOs. They have also asked the Union government for permanent deployment of the army in the area and establishment of military check posts at Lura, Rahun, Senabhati, Phagmulla, Top (Sulta), Dardehi (Khoura) in addition to Kunda, and Kharwan. The villagers also regretted that obsolete weapons are being given to VDC members. In addition, the bridges destroyed by the militants to hamper movement of troops also remain unrepaired. Except for one wooden bridge, three other bridges at Nachlana, Sherbibi and another one ahead of Sherbibi were set on fire by the terrorists.

On the same night of August 1 and 2, suspected foreign militants attacked a patrol party of eight VDC members at 11 PM in Kayar Buchkar village in Dachchan area of Kishtwar. Mercenaries opened heavy firing on them through automatic weapons. Initially taken by surprise, VDC members fought courageously. The encounter lasted three hours. The obsolete weapons of VDC members couldn’t match those of mercenaries and soon exhausted their ammunition as well. All the eight VDC members were killed. Two ladies caught in the cross-firing were injured as bullets of militants fell inside their houses. Sera Devi succumbed to her injuries the next day and Sarswati Devi hit in the leg is recovering. While fleeing, the militants took alongwith them the .303 rifles of the VDC members. The VDC members killed in the encounter included Kunj Lal, Duni Chand, his younger brother Goverdhan, Jagdish, Dewan Chand, Satish Kumar, Shambu Nath.

The security forces have arrested a local, Farooq Ahmed for his involvement in the Pogal massacre.

Chronology of Massacres in Doda

April 13-14, 1993 : 17 Killed at Sarthal, Kishtwar

January 5, 1996 : 16 Killed at Barshalla, Kishtwar

January 12, 1996 : 7 killed at Bhaderwah

May 6, 1996 : 17 killed at Sumbar, Ramban

June 7-8, 1996 : 8 killed at Kamladi, Doda

June 19, 1998 : 25 of two marriage parties gunned down at Chapnari, Doda

July 28, 1998 : 16 massacred in two villages of Doda

August 8, 1998 : 35 labourers killed at Kalaban, HP  adjoining Doda

July 19, 1999 : 15 killed at Layata, Doda

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

Kashmir History and Politics




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