Tuesday, March 25, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Militants massacre 24 in Kashmir
Tribune News Service

A man mourns over the killing of two children among the 24 persons  killed. — PTI photo

Relatives of slain villagers mourn near the site of the carnage. — Photo Amin war

Muslim villagers carry one of the dead through a mustard filed in the village of Nadimarg, 75 km south of Srinagar, on Monday. — Reuters

Victims being cremated at Nadimarg village on Monday.— Photo by Amin war

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad consoles one of the bereaved. — PTI photo

Nadimarg (Shopian), March 24
Unidentified gunmen suspected to be militants, clad in Army uniforms shot dead 24 Kashmiri Pandits, including two children and 11 women, in this remote village of Pulwama district in South Kashmir late last night.

The presence of six police personnel at the security picket set up for the minority community members in the village, proved to be ineffective as the assailants “stormed” into the Nadimarg and snatched their weapons. All 24 victims were assembled beneath a chinar tree in front of the security picket and shot dead, while only one person escaped with minor injuries.

The incident sent shock waves throughout the valley today, while a spontaneous complete bandh was observed in the entire south Kashmir districts of Pulwama and Anantnag. Normal life was also hit in other parts of the valley that coincided with the general strike call given by some organisations in protest against the US action in Iraq. A large number of people from different communities of adjacent villages thronged Nadimarg situated between Pulwama and Anantnag districts soon after the news of the massacre spread.

Policemen and eyewitnesses said a group of armed men in uniforms entered some houses around the security picket around 11 pm last night and asked the inmates to assemble outside for conducting search operation. The assailants soon sprayed bullets on those assembled beneath the chinar tree, killing them on the spot. They included two minors — 2-year-old Suraj, son of Manohar Nath and 3-year-old Moon Raj.

The assailants fled after the massacre, leaving a trail of blood, mourning and wailing villagers, belonging to both Muslim and Pandit communities.

The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, accompanied by the Director-General of Police, Mr A.K. Suri, visited the spot and consoled the kith and kin of those killed in the incident. The AICC general secretary and CLP leader, Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad and a state minister, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed and senior officers were among those who visited the village.

The separatist Hurriyat Conference has condemned the killing of the Pandit community members. Senior APHC leader Mohammed Yaseen Malik and others also visited the village. Seeking to expose the “vested interests” behind the incident the separatist All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) has called for a general strike tomorrow in protest against the massacre of innocent Kashmiri Pandits. An APHC spokesman claimed that “vested interests” were bent upon creating a wedge among various religious communities in Kashmir, leading to a series of massacres of innocent people of different communities in Kashmir during the past several years.

In this massacre, one family was wiped out completely in this remote village.

The government has assured that those behind the incident would be identified and punished.

Six police personnel posted at the picket, whose arms were snatched by the assailants, are being interrogated, the IG Police, Kashmir, Mr K. Rajendra Kumar, said. He said that the absence of two policemen from duty at the time of the incident was also being investigated. The IG said the assailants fled with four S.L.Rs, one carbine, three .303 rifles and one wireless set from the policemen on duty.

It is for the first time that such an incident has taken place in the area, said a villager from the nearby Yaripora. He said these Pandit families had decided to stay back on the insistence of their Muslim brethren at the time of mass migration of Pandits early in 1990. There were only 11 such families residing in the village, partly in Shopian tehsil of Pulwama district and partly in Kalgam tehsil of Anantnag district. Of the 52 persons belonging to the 11 families, only 40 were present in their homes when the massacre took place last night.

One of the residents claimed that the community members had approached the Anantnag district police for providing protection as they apprehended a threat to their lives. However, the DIG Police, Anantnag-Pulwama range Mr M.A. Anjum, denied that there was any such report.

The security picket is the only one in the village while no security camp is located within a range of 10 to 18 km according to the police.

One of the survivors, Ramesh Koul said the militants claimed they were Army personnel and were looking for ultras.

They went about ransacking houses searching for valuable and cash before lining up the people, said Koul, who managed to flee to the nearby Zainapora police station for help.

While officials put the number of militants at 25, Eyewitnesses said there were four to seven of them.

Recalling the ordeal, one of the 16 survivors Chunni Lal, (58), said militants knocked on his door and asked him and his wife to come out and line up. Lal said after the militants opened fire, he feigned death and held his breath till they had left. Lal was injured in the firing.

Another survivor Deep Kumar said last Saturday a delegation from the village had met the Deputy Commissioner Anantnag seeking beefed up security but to no avail. 



Nine cops suspended

Srinagar, March 24
Acting swiftly following the massacre of 24 Kashmiri Pandits in Nadimarg village in Pulwama district, the Jammu and Kashmir Government today suspended nine police personnel posted there for the security of minorities.

The nine personnel have been placed under suspension for neglecting their duty, pending an inquiry into the matter, official sources said. Four of the nine cops had reported at the nearby Zainapora police station in the morning while five others were still missing, they said. The police personnel had allegedly fled the scene as militants attacked the village late last night. PTI



They paid price for staying back’

Nadimarg, March 24
They paid the price for staying back in the valley during all these 13 years, recounts Rahtee, unable to stop her tears.

They little knew that they would have to pay the price for staying behind in the valley with their lives. "What was their fault," the Muslim woman asked journalists who visited the village after 24 Kashmiri Pandits were massacred by unidentified gunmen around midnight last night.

Members of the Hindu and Muslim communities frequently visited each other and shared all the good and bad moments, she recalled.

"We are Muslims and Islam teaches us not to harm anybody," she said, adding that those behind the killings should be publicly hanged.

Ghulam Rasool from a nearby village said the government failed to protect their lives and the Muslim community was tormented by a sense of insecurity.

He said when the entire Kashmiri Pandit community left the valley after the outbreak of militancy in late 1989, they had stayed back in the village not at our request but because of their strong love for their motherland. UNI


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