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
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As part of ‘Peace Diplomacy’, Army had withdrawn its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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.