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Terrorists declare war on minorities in Jammu

What is the responsibility of a state? Protecting its people or its borders. The withdrawal of Army from several interior areas of Jammu province in the wake of ‘coercive diplomacy’ resorted to by the ND government, has exposed the non-Muslims living in these areas to terrorist attacks. In their game plan of massive ethic-cleansing in Jammu province, the terrorists have been attacking non-Muslims all over Jammu province Udhampur, Doda, Rajouri, Poonch etc. These attacks have shaken the confidence of the minorities and there has been migration from many places.

As part of ‘Peace Diplomacy’, Army had withdrawn its 29 Mountain Division from Mahore sector. Following this, terrorists launched many attacks against Hindus living in Mahore, parts of Doda district, Budhal and Rajouri. The recent withdrawal of 13 Sector Rashtriya Rifles has left the hapless civilian population only two choices either to surrender to the diktat of terrorists or migrate to safer destinations. Many of the pickets of security pickets in these areas now stand abandoned. It has paved way for free movement of the terrorists. Thirteen families have left their homes in Kot and Charal villages of Budhal, while from an adjoining village 25 people have migrated. Most of these areas have no communications and villagers have to trek for 24 hours to reach the nearest motorable road.

Surankote Killings

The withdrawal of Army from Thannamandi, Bafliaz and Surankot has made the passage of minorities through these areas risky. On December 5, the terrorists gunned down a sitting Sessions Judge, Vijay Kumar Phull, near Dehra Ki Gali in Surankote tehsil of Poonch district. His two bodyguards and a friend were also gunned down by the terrorists. Interestingly, the killers remained on the spot for half an hour after these killings. Before fleeing they shot at and injured the cleaner of a truck, which was carrying chicken for an Army unit in the area. The cleaner of the truck was hit but the driver did not stop and drove on. Troops reached the massacre site around 2.30 PM, three hours later.

The terrorists were in combat dress and had already stopped a bus to check the I-Cards of passengers when Judge’s vehicle reached there. The terrorists then allowed the bus driver to take away his vehicle along with the paqssengers. Reports said two of the terrorists had approached Phul’s car and asked him for his I-Card. Before the Judge could respond, the militants opened fire, killing all of them, including one who tried to flee. A group of six to eight terrorists had laid a naka at village Donar, about two kms ahead of Dera Ki Gali. In the bus the terrorists had been looking for police personnel but did not find any. The Judge  in seriously injured condition had come out of the car after the terrorists left and crawled about 40 metres in a bid to reach a house but succumbed to his injuries immediately thereafter. Terrorists also took away the weapon of his PSO. It was the bus driver, who informed the shoot-out incident at Thannamandi police station at 12 noon and security officials took 2½ hrs to respond. His bodyguards Prem Kumar and Kamal Singh belonged to Rajouri and RS Pora respectively. His friend VK Sodhi hailed from Krishna Nagar Jammu. There was strong resentment against the killings. Nearly a crowd of over fifteen thousand people joined the funeral of Phull in Poonch. In a careless act, the administration floundered by sending Sodhi’s body to Phull’s family. Sodhi’s funeral thus got delayed by a day. Except for a single CID cop, no other personnel of Rajouri district administration, despite prior intimation by authorities in Jammu, was there when Mrs Phull reached from Jammu at 9.30 PM. On December 24, Romeo Force of Army in Surankot claimed that the killer of Phull, Mohd Zafran Khan alias Abu Asram, ‘area commander of LeT has been killed in an encounter. The killer belonged to Abbotabad.

Only a day before the terrorists had shot two Ayurvedic doctors--Dr Kulbhushan Sharma of Jammu and Dr ML Sharma of Mendhar. Reports said, a group of terrorists had laid an ambush in Dundak area and opened firing on a Maruti car and a truck, which had left Poonch for Surankot at 7.15 PM. Conductor of the truck was killed on spot. Dr Kulbhushan was posted in Mandi. The two were going to meet their relatives in Surankote when their car came under the terrorists’ firing.

Poonch Massacre

On the new year’s day at 5-45 PM, two terrorists dropped at the house of one Makhan Lal at Magnar Top. The village has a scattered population of Hindus. As it was dark, the inmates lit candles and offered the terrorists chairs to sit. Makhan Lal’s family also gave them food, which the militants refused to accept. The terrorists made all the family members to sit on floor of a room and began interrogating them. They started searching for excuses and told the family members, “we have definite reports that you people have been harassing Muslims of the area and committing atrocities on them.” When the family members said it was untrue, the terrorists opened fire on them killing Baldev Raj his sons Kuldeep (2) and Sunil, (six months) and brothers Khetar Pal and Ashok Kumar and Khetar’s wife Geeta.

Baldev’s wife Champa sustained serious bullet injuries. Khetar’s daughter Anju Devi (12) and Baldev’s son Sanjay Kumar (8), who were also sitting on the floor along with the other family members survived unhurt as bodies of some of the dead fell on them giving them a cover. The dead bodies were brought to Geeta Bhawan, Poonch by people, who held a protest demonstration in the town. Magnar Top is 10 km from the town. By evening the crowd at Geeta Bhavan had swelled to more than ten thousand, and refused to cremate the dead bodies till a central minister visited the town. This was second such massacre during past fourty eight hours. Earlier, four persons of a family were killed in Rajouri district, at Kainthal.

The lone survivor Champa Devi, who was shifted to GMC, Jammu told mediamen that the two terrorists who intruded in their house were in combat dress and supporting beards. They introduced themselves as army jawans. She was sore that during the firing and even after the incident none of their neighbours had come out for help. She said both ultras were talking in Kashmiri. They entered the kitchen and asked Champa Devi to join other family members. Baldev’s paternal uncle Puran Chand, living in the adjoining house, was also brought to the former’s house. She further said that as soon as all the members assembled in the room, the terrorists locked the door and started firing indiscriminately on them killing five of them on the spot. Till 9 PM when police reached she and other surviving members were lying in the closed house unattended. The Army reached on the spot only next morning. Champa Devi had been shot only at her leg and fell down unconscious. Puran hand somehow managed to escape, carrying away two children Anju Devi and Sanjay Kumar. The police killed three terrorists, identified as Ibrar Bhai, Afrid Bhai and Abu Mujhid, all Pakistanis and affiliated to LeT, in an encounter at Kalai on January 5. It claimed they were instrumental in the killings at Mangnar Top on December 31 evening. The terrorists had taken shelter in the house of one Shafiq Hussain at village Kalaban in Mendhar after the massacre.

Ethnic-Cleansing in Rajouri

During the past one month, the terrorists have been making determinded attempts to force a demographic change in this district. Between December 15 and January 16, there were six major attempts at targeting the minority community in the district.

On December 15, a group of heavily armed militants entered the house of Chowkidar Kali Dass in village Sher-Makri in Bhawani sector, about 2 kms from LoC in Nowshera at midnight. The militants, numbering eight asked chowkidar to help them cross the border. Kali Dass’s wife Shanti Devi, his son Vijay Kumar and grandson Rinku were present in the house that time. The militants threatened Kali Dass with death in case he did not oblige them. Kali Dass bravely told them that he faced death in both situations and would prefer death in his own country. This infuriated the terrorists. They lined up all the family members and opened full burst of fire on Kali Dass and his wife, killing both of them on the spot. 15 bullets were fired on Kali Dass. His wife received 10 bullets.

Rinku managed to escape along with his mother, brother and sister and hid in the house. Vijay Kumar, received serious injuries and fell down unconscious. Rinku raised an alarm in the village and the villagers remained awake throughout the night. Police came to know only at 6 AM. Villagers were furious at the callous attitude of district administration. After the terrorists had killed Kali Dass and his family members, Pakistan army opened heavy firing from across the LoC to provide cover to the fleeing terrorists. Before exfiltrating, they planted four IEDs in a small religious place located close to the LoC.

On December 29, in Niro Jal area of Thannamandi, a group of terrorists entered the house of Gulshan Kumar and shot him in the head. He died on spot Gulshan was a VDC member. In this village first the Army was shifted and later on the only police post removed without citing any reason. All the fifteen Hindu families abandoned their village and shifted to Rajouri town. Earlier the villagers had met Superintendent of Police and Deputy Commissioner, demanding the setting up of a picket. They decided to migrate after the district administration expressed helplessness in setting up a picket due to shortage of manpower. Nirojal  falls on the infiltration route of militants, who after crossing over to this side from across the LoC, take Dodasan Bala Darhal route. In the recent past, many IED blasts took place near Nirojal, while at least half a dozen IEDs were recovered live. An imaginative administration, engaged in counter-insurgency campaign would have acted differently.

Four members of a minority family were gunned down by the terrorists on December 30. A group of five to seven militants reached at the house of Madan Lal a leading businessman at 8 0’Clock. Three of the terrorists entered the house, while the rest stood guard outside. Immediately they began demanding Rs 7 lakh towards Jehad fund from Madan Lal. His mother Lakshmi placed Rs 60000 before them saying that there was no more money at home at that time. Family members swore that they would collect the amount the next day from the bank and neighbours to meet their demand. Terrorists took sixty thousand rupees and then shot dead Lakshmi Devi. Then they killed Madan Lal and Moti Ram, maternal uncle of Madan Lal. However, Madan’s younger brother Rakesh managed to escape and informed the police about killings. Before leaving the house, the terrorists looted the house and set ablaze Madan’s house alongwith the bodies lying there.

Local people managed to shift the injured Yashpal, Madan’s brother to hospital. He told the police, two terrorists who attacked the house, looked like locals, while others were foreign mercenaries. This was the third militant attack in the village in the past one week.

On December 30 night terrorists threw a grenade on a house at Choudhary Nar in Rajouri town. Police reports said heavily armed militants struck in the locality adjoining Government Degree College and knocked at the house of Trilok. When the occupants did not respond, the terrorists hurled a grenade at the window, it exploded outside the house and damaged a major portion of the house, besides injuring Trilok’s son Rakesh and his wife Ashu Bala. After the attack, terrorists had opened indiscriminate fire targeting the house. This was the first such incident in town.

A group of militants descended on the village Kenkhas in Budhal area on the night of January 15 to attack the minority community. Prabhat Singh, a VDC member spotted four terrorists. He challenged the terrorists all alone and killed one of them. Other terrorists were reported to have fired back killing Prabhat and his wife Shanti Devi. Police party reached the place in the morning. A CRPF patrol party had spotted the dead bodies of the couple and the terrorist.

Earlier, in a daring incident VDC member Chain Singh gunned down a terrorist in Dharamsal and thwarted an attempt to execute yet another massacre. Chain Singh after observing the movement of five terrorists took position in his house at village Dagal Halaal near Taryath. At midnight, when terrorists started firing on the houses of minority community, the VDC member immediately retaliated. He fought alone for 20 minutes and was later joined by five other VDC members. The terrorists fled after their colleague was gunned down.

Doda-Udhampur Belt

Following reports of heavy concentration of militants at various places in Mahore and Chenani and fearing the repeat of Pancheri type of massacre at least 25 families from Chakka Khartal area in Pancheri block of Udhampur tehsil migrated to Udhampur town or Jammu in third week of December last. Before migration, the villagers had gone to DC Udhampur to remind him of his promise to erect a police post in their village. Additional SP had promised them of providing police posts both at Tringli and Chakki Khartal area. The villagers told media persons that, “even after fifteen days after the massacre not a single police post has been erected in our area”. They added that a year before the massacre they had been telling police about the possible threat to their lives from militants but all their requests fell on the deaf ears. The villagers revealed that for the past one year the terrorists have been freely roaming in their area. The militants used to stay and have their meals at the house of either Hashim Devi Gujjar or Shia Gujjar. But when asked to send their sons across for arms training, both Hashim and Shia showed reluctance, villagers said. Hashim then trekked down to inform Pancheri Police Station. The police took no measures. Subsequently, the terrorists gunned down seven people, including four VDC members in the area. In the wake of massacre, more promises followed. Instead of setting up police post at Mudidhar, which is the hub of militancy, the police post was erected in Janwal, where it hardly has any use.

Ramsu Massacre

Yet another massacre was enacted at Luroo and Maligam Sonwa, a remote village near Ramsoo in Banihal on the night of January 7. Reports said a group of heavily armed terrorists went to the house of Baldev Singh, a VDC member at Luroo. When inmates of the house refused to open the door, militants hurled a grenade inside. The blast killed Baldev, his son Karan Pal and a relative, Sharda Devi. Baldev’s wife Durga Devi, daughter Mansoo, Anita Devi and SPO Surjit Singh sustained severe splinter injuries. The house was also badly damaged in the blast.

The terrorists then went to nearby Maligam Sonwa, where people have, for the past few months, been sleeping in the nearby forest for fear of attacks. The militants set fire to one of the houses. The terrorists, believed to be locals, knew that the village was empty. As fire engulfed the house, the owner, Baldev Singh and his family came out of the forest. The terrorists opened fire, killing three brothers including two VDC members and causing serious injuries to 12 members of their families. While fleeing, the militants snatched away the weapons of two VDC members Chattar Singh and Bharat Singh and set ablaze five houses of minority community. The deceased were identified as Baldev Singh, Chattar Singh and Bharat Singh, all brothers and sons of late Dhian Singh. Injured included Kashu Ram, another son of Dhian Singh, Nain Singh, VDC member, Barmata Devi, Goli Devi, daughter of Bharat Singh, Romeo Devi, wife of Nain Singh, Ansa Devi wife of Chattar Singh, Koshali Devi, daughter of Dhina Singh, Darshana Devi, daughter of Nain Singh, Hoshiar Singh, son of Chattar Singh, Anuj Singh, son of Nain Singh and Dharmi Devi, daughter of Nain Singh.  Reports said for more than half an hour no body in village came to their rescue.

Both the villages lacked security force pickets. Information about the two carnages reached Ramban police only next morning. Reports added that at Luroo, immediately after the grenade blast VDC members took position and saved other members of the minority community. Sources said that the exchange of firing between the VDC members and the terrorists continued till next afternoon, due to delay in arrival of security forces. Later the terrorists fled away to a nearby forest area. The injured confirmed that the terrorists were speaking the local language.

The villagers refused to cremate the bodies and were planning to bring the dead bodies to Ramsu town on January 8. People in Ramsu and Ramban staged massive protests and shouted slogans and burnt effigies of Mr LK Advani, Dr Farooq Abdullah and Mr Bali Ram Bhagat, BJP MLA. Senior officers of district administration attended the cremation of carnage victims at Luddu on January 8 but none of the civil or police officers visited Ukhral, where three massacred brothers were cremated by the locals, in the presence of over three thousand people. The locals had waited till late afternoon for the arrival of local officers to join the cremation. The mob also raised slogans against BJP and NC leaders, who were conspicuous by their absence at the funeral.

Revealing details about Luddu carnage, Gamo Devi, wife of slain Baldev Singh said her husband alongwith other VDC members of the village fought with the terrorists from 0200 hours to 0730 hours and till then no enforcement of security forces or police had reached the village. She added, “It was due to a brave front put up by the VDC members that about 150 to 200 members of minority community in the village were saved”. Her husband fell to the terrorists’ bullets at 0600 hours.

Govt Response

Could these carnages have been prevented? The kith and kin of the slained villagers believe that had there been no power cuts, the two villages would not have lost seven lives. The long power cuts have rendered the communication sets to VDC members redundant. So villagers could not inform the security forces about the terrorists’ attacks. Had these sets been working, the VDC members who engaged terrorists for several hours could have called reinforcements from army post at Ukhral or police post at Ramsu. Police Chowki at Ramsu is without a telephone. Even the policemen at Kanihal post, 2 kms from Sohnwa remained unaware of the incident. It was the fourth massacre in the area. Despite this, these villages are without electricity and security pickets. About 45 families migrated from Sohnwa and Maligam villages on January 9 after the carnage. Of these 25 families belong to Maligam. The refugees have taken shelter in Ukhral. These families comprising about 300 members trekked for full day to reach Ukhral. They were demanding setting up of security forces pickets at Kot, Panchal, Sohnwa, Maligam and Gwala villages for protection of the minority community. The villagers said an army post at Sohnwa was withdrawn by authorities in September last despite resistance and protests by the local people.

Army post at Sohnwa was set up following Kunda massacre. On January 12, the security forces claimed that three terrorists involved in the two massacres had been eliminated in an hour long gun-battle at Neil Parinder area in Banihal. The terrorists were identified as Abu Rizwan, resident of Trehgam, Riaz Ahmed Bhat, resident of Gagoni and Zakki Rehman, resident of Sialkot. They belonged to LeT outfit. The first two belonged to Banihal.

Following strong criticism of the role of Union Home Ministry in displaying cavalier attitude to security of minority community in the strategic Doda district, officials in the ministry sought to make amends.

A report said that the home ministry had decided to give grenades to VDCs in Ramsoo and Banihal areas. .303 rifles, provided to VDC members are grossly insufficient against militants’ modern weapons. The home ministry has been slow in providing assault rifles to VDC members. Police officers have said at least the grenade blasts will alert the security forces nearby. Presently, the minority community in the adjoining districts of Jammu is keeping its fingers crossed over the government response to war against the minorities by the terrorists.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

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