Chatisinghpora anniversary: 17 years on, justice eludes victims’ families

It is the seventeenth year and the gory scenes of that bloody night are yet to swab from the eyes and the heart of the survivors—who witnessed massacre of the 35 residents.
Chatisinghpora anniversary: 17 years on, justice eludes victims’ families
GK Photo

It is the seventeenth year and the gory scenes of that bloody night are yet to swab from the eyes and the heart of the survivors—who witnessed massacre of the 35 residents.

In the village of Chatisingpora in south Kashmir's Shangus area, 35 people of the minority Sikh community were massacred on the evening of March, 20. 

Nanak Singh, 60, is lone survivor of the massacre who lost his 16-year old son Gurmeet Singh, 25-year old brother Dalbeer Singh and three of his cousins in the gory incident.

"It was quarter to eight. The men in Army fatigues asked the villagers to come out of their houses and assemble on pretext that there is presence of militants in the area," Singh recalls.

The villagers who were inside the Gurdwara were also asked to assemble outside. "I was one among 19 people assembled near main Gurduwara and 17 more were queued up near another small Gurdwara in Shokipora," he recalls.

"The men in Army fatigues, speaking Hindi, offered wine to those assembled but it was rejected."

"They trained guns towards us and started firing. Around me there were bodies all around in a pool of blood but for me it was perplexing situation. A bullet pierced through my hip but I survived, only to watch five of my family members being cremated," says Nanak amid sobs.

"It was like doomsday," he recollects. 

Nanak who survived in the incident after receiving a bullet injury, however is baffled about the reluctance of the government in ordering inquiry.

"Leave apart justice, what I fail to understand is what stopped the State and Central governments from at least ordering an inquiry into the horrific massacre of 35 Sikhs," he said.

He said that then Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah had expressed his helplessness in the matter saying he was not allowed to order inquiry. "We want to at least know who these hidden hands were," said Nanak.

Nanak- who is member of local Gurduwara Prabhandak committee also demanded a thorough inquiry of Chattisinghpora massacre as also reopening of Pathribal and Brakpora cases which he says are interlinked.

Narender Kaur, 57 who lost four members in her family including her husband in the massacre is yet to come out of the trauma. "I can't forget that fateful evening. The men in Army fatigues asked the male members of our family to come out of their houses and assemble outside as they have to carry searches," says Kaur.

She says that her husband, brother in law and his two sons also came out after the men in Army fatigues assured them that they have only to check their Identity cards and will leave them within 5 minutes.

"After some time we heard the sound of bullets followed by screams. I along with other neighbors rushed out only to see dead bodies lying all around in a pool of blood," says Kaur.

Kaurs husband Gurbaksh Singh was killed in the incident leaving behind two daughters and aged father. Her brother in law Uttam Singh and his two sons Ajeet Paul Singh and Gurdeep Singh were also killed.

 "It was a doomsday for us as. I while desperately tried to look for the body of my husband, brother in law and his children felt unconscious," says Kaur amid hearts and sobs.

Jeet Kaul, aged 75 lost five male members in the family. Her husband- Fakir Singh and two sons – Karnail Singh and Seetal Singh fell to the bullets while her grandsons Jitenander Singh and Sony Singh were also among those killed.

Karnail, who was elder son of Jeet is now survived by widow Prakash Kuar, 51, two daughters while Seetal-the younger son is survived by widow Sheshandar Kaur, 49, two sons and a daughter.

"I lost everything. But lived only for the sake of my grand children and daughter in laws," says ailing Jeet Kaul.

She said that last sixteen years have been quite tough for her as well as family. 

The family members of all the victims are unanimously seeking an inquiry. "Though justice continues to elude the Pathribal victims and those killed in Brakpora, but at least truth has come to fore that Army and police were responsible for these two incidents. In our case, truth has been concealed for unknown reasons and no inquiry was conducted at all into the incident either by State or Central government," the victim families lamented.

Besides victim families, the Sikh bodies are also demanding an inquiry into the killings.

All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee Kashmir (APSCCK) while maintaining that it will continue to fight for the justice demanded that culprits be brought to the book. "We have always been maintaining that Chatisinghpora, Pathribal and Brakpora are a series of interlinked occurrences and hence can't be taken up in isolation. So we have been demanding a time bound inquiry into Chatisinghpora massacre too," said President APSCCK Jagmohan Raina.

He said that even Pandian Commission set up into the killing of seven people at Brakpora while recommending an inquiry commission for all three incidents had stated that the incidents were inter-linked.

Local Gurduwara Prabhandak Committee also demanded an impartial inquiry into the incident. "We don't know who was behind the killings. No inquiry was initiated into the incident and this has made us apprehensive. Our demand is that the matter should be investigated so that truth comes to fore," said members of the committee.

On March 25, Army shot dead five men in Pathribal village of Shangus area in the same district and claimed they were foreign militants responsible for killing the Sikhs. The Army version was supported by police who termed it a joint operation. It later turned out that all those killed in Pathribal were local residents reportedly picked up by Army, police and government gunmen from various areas.

Seven more people protesting against the Pathribal killings were killed in firing by police and paramilitary forces at Brakpora village on April, 3.

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