Saturday, June 3, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Chattisinghpora revisited
Crops await harvesters
From Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

CHATTISINGHPORA (Anantnag), June 2 — The eloquence and smiles of Balpreet Singh, a six-year-old cannot unravel what had happened on that fateful Holi eve, when his father, Darbari Singh, was among 35 Sikhs mown down by unidentified gunmen in this remote village.

Even after two months, the village seems to be overcast with the trauma that befell on the villagers, shaking their confidence for the first time in the decade-long militancy. What meets the eye in the village today are the clusters of women, most of them widowed, and turbaned old Sikhs sitting on guard their homes, unmindful of the happenings around. The lood is, however, serene under the shadow of huge chinars, walnut and willow trees. There are dozens of children like Balpreet, who are ignorant about the happenings and the tragedy that struck the villagers on the evening of March 20 last. Two platoons of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) at the two gurdwaras are what meets the eye of the youngsters in the village, now. A police post has come up near the mosque at the entry to the village. The scene outside the village is no different. The link road that shoots off from the Mattan-Achcbal road to the village has been named “Shaheedi Marg”. The grim-face Sikh and Muslik youth speak volumes about what befell on the village two months ago.

The two spots near the gurdwaras where the Sikh villagers were lined up and shot in front of the main Gurdwara Singh Sabha Samandri Hall and Gurdwara Singh Sabha, Showkeen Mohalla, of the village, have been distinctly demarcated. The spots have been separated from the common path by demarcation of iron rods laid with saffron cloth. It was one spot outside the main gurdwara and two spots outside the Showkeen Mohalla gurdwara, where the Sikhs were lined up and shot dead. All the three spots have been mopped up with neat mud colour. The photographs of all those killed in front of the gurdwara at Showkeen Mohalla have been mounted on a board on the wall of the cowshed. A similar demarcation has been made, this one having white cloth on its sides, at the site of the cremation inside the entrance to the main gurdwara. A black flag flutters in front of the shop of Gurmeet Singh. “It was hoisted following the incident to guide mourners to the Showkeen Mohalla.... No need to remove it”, Gurmeet said.

Balpreet Singh’s father, Darbari Singh, was among five members of a single family killed in the shootout. Their one storeyed house remains secluded on the slopes of the Khalsa Mohalla that runs down to the brook dividing the Mohalla from Showkeen Mohalla of this remote village in South Kashmir. The six-year old Balpreet is younger to Jaspreet, both reading at the local Khalsa English Medium School in UKG and Class IInd, respectively.

Darbari’s brother, Nanak Singh, a State Government employee, is the only support to the family and is undergoing treatment after having been injured in shootout, at a Jammu hospital. Nanak’s son Gurmeet Singh, his two cousins, Sartaj and Kulbir and another relative, Ujjal Singh were among those killed. Nanak’s sister, Kanwal Kour has to take care of her mother and Nanak’s teenaged daughter. His wife and son are attending on him in the Jammu hospital. Manmeet, son of Nanak Singh, has got a government job on compassionate grounds. There is no one to look after their mustard crop, even as it is high time for harvesting. “Who shall look after the crop, land...? there are no male members”, laments Kanwal Kour.

The plight of several other households is no different. Paramjeet Singh, 15-year old student of Class IX has got an appointment order as a Class IV employee in the Education Department on compassionate grounds. He has to abandon his studies to earn for his mother, younger brother, Balwinder, a class VI student and a younger sister.

Away in the Showkeen Mohalla on the other side of the brook, sufferings are the same. Old men and women, widows and children are a common sight. They are under watchful eyes of CRPF men on guard at the far end of the cluster of houses near the gurdwara. Baldev Singh 85, is the only male member of the family. His two sons, Gurbaksh Singh and Uttam Singh were among those killed. “Twelve of our relatives have been killed.... nobody is there to look after the old and the children, he said. One of his daughters-in-law has been given a government job. The Jammu and Kashmir government ordered the appointment of the 32 persons, close relatives of the killed in the massacre.

The orders to this effect were issued within a fortnight of the killings. An octogenarian, Arjan Singh is the only male member of his family. His son, Niranjan Singh also fell victim to militants' bullets two months ago. Niranjan’s two daughters, out of five, are married and one of his sons-in-law has got a job.

Nearby is the house of Gurdeep Singh, he had a shop on the other side of the brook. His widow, Neelam Kour, has got an appointment order, the only hope for the six-month old baby, Gurmeet Kour.

A number of people from different communities and leaders cutting across party lines, have been visiting the ill-fated village since the incident took place two months ago. “They have been offering pocket money to the next of kin of those killed,” said a youth. The State government has already provided Rs 1 lakh each in case of the death of a person in the village. Financial assistance has also been provided by the Punjab Government.

A list for supply of one truck each to the affected families has been sent to Canada to a Sikh leader. Though he had asked for the list, there has been no response, learnt here. In many cases the aged parents may be the only sufferers as the compensation and money is being released in favour of the dependent wife or children of those killed, a Sikh villager said. “While the daughter-in-law gets money, her parents-in-law have to suffer”, he adds.

Apart from the ex-gratia, the government has made 32 appointments of the kin of those killed in Chattisinghpora massacre.

A requirement drive was launched in the village on May 11 last which was attended among others by the Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, and the Director General of Police, Mr Gurbachan Jagat. The occasion was to make on the spot appointment of the youth. Over 200 youths from the village and the adjoining villages participated in the test. Several Sikh youth of this village wait for their appointments. The village also witnessed and availed the facilities of a free medical camp on Monday (May 22) in which 250 patients were examined and treated by the doctors provided by the 54th Bn of the CRPF deployed in the village. The unit also distributed sports items among the students of Khalsa English Medium School and the Government Primary School. The Deputy Commissioner, Anantnag, GA Peer, who was the chief guest also handed over a TV to the villagers. The village folks make use of the water from the brook that cuts through the village. The water pipes laid by the PHE Department days after the massacre are yet to provide an adequate water supply.

The shuddering silence of the village is broken at times by the beating of clothes by women on the side of the brook. The farmers of this village are yet to harvest their crop and sow paddy seeds.

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