Kashmir remembers Chatisinghpora Massacre victims; demands probe

Kashmir remembers Chatisinghpora Massacre victims; demands probe
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It is the 19th year and the gory scenes of that bloody day still haunt the survivors. In this beautiful village of Chatisingpora in south Kashmir's Shangus area, 35 members of the minority Sikh community were massacred on the evening of March 20, 2000.

Nanak Singh, 62, is awitness to the massacre who lost his 16-year old son Gurmeet Singh, 25-year oldbrother Dalbeer Singh and three of his cousins in the gory incident.

"It was quarter to eight. The killers asked the villagers tocome out of their houses and assemble at one place, saying that there waspresence of militants in the area," Singh recalls.

"The villagers who were inthe Gurdwara were also asked to assemble outside. I was one among 19 peopleassembled near main Gurdwara and 17 more were queued up near another smallGurdwara in Shokipora," he recalls.

"Thegunmen 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. A bullet pierced through myhip but I survived, only to watch five of my family members being cremated,"says Nanak, amid sobs.

Nanak is baffled on the reluctance of the government inordering an inquiry.

"Leavealone justice, what I fail to understand is what stopped the State and Centralgovernments from ordering an inquiry into the horrific massacre of 35 Sikhs,"he asks.

He said that the then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah hadexpressed his helplessness in the matter saying he was not allowed to orderinquiry. "We want to know who these hidden hands were," said Nanak.

Nanak- a member of local Gurdwara Prabhandak committee –demanded a thorough inquiry of Chatisinghpora massacre as also reopening ofPathribal and Brakpora cases. "All the three cases are interlinked."

Six days after the massacre, army claimed to have killed"five foreign militants" in an encounter in nearby Pathribal village, sayingthey were responsible for killings of the Sikhs. The army version was supportedby police who termed it a "joint operation."

It later turned out thatall those killed in Pathribal were local civilians killed in a stagedencounter, a fact confirmed by the central bureau of investigation (CBI).

Eight more civiliansprotesting against the Pathribal killings were killed in firing by police andparamilitary forces at Brakpora village on April 3.

NarenderKaur, 57, lost four members in her family including her husband in themassacre. "I can't forget that evening. They asked the male members of ourfamily to come out of house as they have to carry out searches," says Kaur.

She says that her husband, brother in law and his two sonscame out after the men assured them that they have only to check their identitycards and would leave them within 5 minutes.

"After some time, we heard gunshots followed by screams. Ialong with other neighbours rushed out only to see dead bodies lying allaround," says Kaur.

Kaur's husband Gurbaksh Singh was killed in the incidentleaving behind two daughters and aged father. Her brother in law Uttam Singhand his two sons Ajeet Paul Singh and Gurdeep Singh were also killed.

Jeet Kaul, 77, lost five members in the family. Her husbandFakir Singh and two sons – Karnail Singh and Seetal Singh – fell to the bulletswhile her grandsons Jitenander Singh and Sony Singh were also among thosekilled.

The families of all the victims are unanimously seeking aninquiry. "Though justice continues to elude the Pathribal victims and thosekilled in Brakpora, but at least truth has come to fore that army and policewere responsible for these two incidents. In our case, the truth has beenconcealed for unknown reasons and no inquiry was conducted either by State orCentral government," the families lamented.

All Parties SikhCoordination Committee Kashmir (APSCCK) while maintaining that it will continueto fight for justice sought bringing culprits to book.

"The delay in justice has led to disillusionment in the Sikhcommunity," said Jagmohan Raina, president APSCCK.

"We have always been maintaining that Chatisinghpora,Pathribal and Brakpora are a series of interlinked occurrences and hence can'tbe taken up in isolation," he said.

Raina said that even the Pandian Commission – set up intothe killing of seven civilians at Brakpora – had recommended an inquirycommission for all three incidents stating that they were inter-linked.

Raina said the massacre of Sikhs on the eve of then USPresident's visit suggested that it was pre-planned.

"A judicial probe suggested even by the supreme court wasnever ordered. An independent body should now carry out the probe so that truthcomes to fore," said Raina.

Local Gurdwara PrabhandakCommittee said, "Those who orchestrated this massacre wanted to scare us out.But we were born here and will also die here."

It was all praise for the majority Muslim community who"always stood by us in difficult circumstances."

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