LARGEST CIRCULATED ENGLISH FORTNIGHLY OF J&K
September 1st - September 30th, 2001
|| Home | | September 1st - September 30th, 2001 ||
|Railway authorities remain indifferent
On August 20, two members belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammed suicide squad group were gunned down by SOG Jammu and Satwari near Niki Tawi. The area is just four kms away from the Jammu Airport. According to the police the possible target of the suicide group was the Jammu Airport. Three days before, security forces had intercepted a message that indicated that two to four militants were likely to sneak through Tawian to carry out a suicide attack in Jammu. The concerned authorities immediately swung into action to review the security for the airport in the background of high-profile terrorist actions in Jammu city. A high-level meeting was held in Jammu. In it Joint Director (IB), senior officials of Airport authority and security agencies reviewed the possible loopholes. Unfortunately there has not been a similar sensitivity on the issue of providing fool-proof security to Jammu Railway Station.
Jammu Railway Station has remained a soft target for the terrorists since the eruption of terrorism in Kashmir. Even before, on February 13, 1985, 12 passengers were killed in an explosion that rocked the Sealdah train near Kagwal, in Kathua. Since 1990 there have been two blasts in trains. The railway track between Jammu and Pathankot was targetted nine times, the latest attempt was near Sapwal on August 23-24.
Recently, within a span of sixty days there have been three attacks in and around Jammu Railway Station. On June 25, a scooterist in 30's came and parked his two-wheeler near the stairs leading to the railway waiting hall. The beat constable on duty disallowed the parking. It was 8.30 PM. Scooterist returned to the spot after a few minutes and insisted on parking his scooter there, but the cop chased him away this time. The saboteur made a third attempt to park scooter near the stairs. When he failed, he moved towards the adjoining Movement Call Office (MCO) of army and parked the two wheeler there. He went missing thereafter. Bomb kept in the scooter exploded at 9.05 PM. 37 persons got splinter injuries.
Police failed to arrest anyone. Only clues it provided was that the saboteur was a local. On June 27 KZF Chief Ranjit Singh Neeta claimed responsibility for the blast. J&K Police said the claim was to derail the investigations, while DGP Punjab said Kashmiri militants were utilizing Punjab militants for carrying out their activities in Jammu region. Other reports said that Neetu, who has been staying in Pakistan had been ordered to leave that country or do something big in Jammu. As per local police, the saboteur had first gone towards city and then took shelter somewhere in RS Pura sector. Army also contradicted police statement and said it was not using area of blast for parking vehicles. In the blast six vehicles, including two of the army were damaged.
On August 7, there was a dare-devil attack by a suicide group of Islamist militants on Railway Station.
Lance Naik, Suresh Kumar and his five other colleagues had to board Jehlum Express at 8 PM. They were going on temporary duty and had luggage and service weapons with them. The soldiers were waiting at Platform No:1. Around 8.20 PM, the Ahmedabad-Jammu Express stopped at the railway station and the passengers got down. 10 minutes later the train was beginning to move to the yard, when suddenly bullets rained from assault rifles. The two militants alighted from separate bogies of Ahmedabad-Jammu Express under the overhead bridge at Platform No: 1. They had boarded the train, as per one report, at Vijaypur.
The two terrorists took position in a line parallel to train. One militant right in front of army persons started firing first. Immediately after hearing the gun shots, Lance Naik Suresh and others caught hold of their weapons. Before Suresh could load magazines, two militants had already killed few people and injured two of Suresh's colleagues. Suresh too was hit by a bullet on his arm. Terrorists were spraying bullets in all directions. Suresh spotted the militant and opened fire from his SLR. He fired 13 rounds and the militant was hit and wounded. Before the militant could reload his magazine, Suresh jumped on him and snatched his AK-rifle and opened the burst killing him on the spot. At this point of time, the other militant dropped his weapon, mixed with people and started fleeing towards the second gate, near the inquiry counter. Suresh did not fire at him, because of fear of collateral casualties to the commuters.
There was total bungling in the security at all levels. Had there been proper security arrangements and a proper well fortified exit point the terrorist could have been easily nabbed. The small police and CRPF force deployed was nowhere to be seen. When the firing started most of them ran away along with passengers. It was because of Suresh's bravery that casualties remained restricted to 13 deaths and the number of injured was 35. Only after the shooting was over, cops were seen coming from Platform No: 3, where they had gone to hide. Out of 500 cops at least 175 were supposed to be on duty. There was total dereliction of duty by cops.
Despite advance information, Railway Police failed to take desired measures. Nearly 20,000 people travel daily by train, out of whom forty percent are security forcesmen. Did not it warrant stationing of quick-reaction teams in and around the Railway Station to prempt any attack by suicide groups? Police had been given information in writing that a 'fidayeen' attack on railway station may take place between August 5 to 10. Railways Police received this message on August 3, but it seems that it devised no contingency plan. The message conveyed that a suicide squad had sneaked into Jammu with specific mission of targetting Jammu Railway Station. Even timing was mentioned i.e. between 20.45 to 22 hours when Shalimar/Jehlum depart.
The Police has made no headway in this incident. As per police, the militant killed belonged to Poonch-Rajouri. It has not confirmed whether the Bihari whisked from hospital was the second militant. The slain militant carried fake I-Card of a surrendered militant and weapons were coated with carbon to escape detection.
Railway authorities and the Railway Police cannot escape the responsibility for treating security of the station quite casually. It is perhaps one of the few stations, where railway authorities hardly check the platform tickets. There are several hundred attendants who accompany the passengers to the platform. At a time, there are eight thousand people at the railway station and nearly two thousand at one platform only. Despite the fact that forty percent of the passengers are armymen, Railway authorities could use the adjoining Bari Brahmana station for their boarding. This would ease the crowd and also help from security angle.
There is no regulation of people. The long platform is used by morning and evening walkers. Random checking is done at one (out of three) gate only. 46 vendor shops and 34 kiosks on three platforms also create big congestion. Railways authorities encourage them and make quick money.
Crime and Railways department had recommended shifting of the main oil depot of the Indian Oil. The depot is close to platform three. In 1998 militants had fired rockets on it but missed the target. This oil depot supplies oil in tankers to all parts of J&K. Any attack on these depots can set Jammu aflame. Bureaucrats sitting in Delhi are insensitive to security concerns.
There is a general complaint that GRPF which mans the station is not discharging its duty with responsibility. Its men usually station themselves at places, where they can make quick money e.g. near cloak room, general coaches of train.
Railways authorities are sitting over fencing of the station area and electrification of railway track. Four years back when militants shifted attention to Jammu Railway track, the railways authorities were asked to go for fencing (compound wall or barbed wire), electrification of 82 km track, installation of OP towers and erecting of Barrier gate at main entry point from Trikuta Nagar, to regulate vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
For fool-proof security to the Railway Station it is desirable to sanitise the area around the station and avoid multiplicity of different security forces. Whenever any mishap takes place, these agencies pass the buck to each other. Some bunkers which have come up in and around station do not have adequate cops and remain empty. There is a requirement for six X-Ray Baggage scanning machines and CCTVs to be installed at three platforms. There is just one. Even the number of platforms is less to cope up with ever increasing rush of Vaishnodevi pilgrims (ten thousand per day). The CCTV fitted at the reservation counter is lying defunct for want of repairing. For proper manning of the railways track, Railways had been asked to construct some temporary sheds for the cops. Same was turned down on the plea of financial implications. The railway track is quite vulnerable, at Hiranagar it is just 5.5 kms away from the IB, while at Gagwal it is only 5 kms away.
If senior state government officials are to be believed, the Railways authorities have yet to take the recent threats to Railway Station seriously. The Union Home Minister LK Advani had deputed Northern Railways General Manager, S.Dashrathi to visit Jammu and review the security. As per reports he had turned down almost all the proposals put forward by the state agencies to make the station attack-proof. The state agencies had demanded immediate fencing, creation of one more overhead bridge, closure of all escape routes and reduction in the number of trolleys and rehris selling eatables on the platforms.
Where security of twenty thousand people everyday is at stake, should Railways and other agencies be so callous to talk about paucity of funds?
S.No. Date Acts of Sabotage
Continued violence desensitizes human beings. The daily killings of the innocent people by perpetrators of hate and terrorism, are then looked upon as cold statistics. J&K today has reached that threshold. Massacres do not make us feel outraged. Ritualistically, there is condemnation by the politicians, talk of 'pro-active' measures by the government and promise of adequate security for the vulnerable, by the law and authorities. As dust over the heat generated by the massacres settles down everything is forgotten. That is why massacres continue to recur with regular frequency.
Why massacres of the innocent people by the terrorists do not focus national attention for evolving a comprehensive doctrine for survival of minorities in J&K? This should best be left to be answered by those who are presiding over the destiny of people of J&K at present.
There have been six massacres in one month, between July 21 and Aug 22. Separatists are trying to force Hindus out from the trans-Chenab belt in pursuit of Dixon-Plan. They are attacking the Hindu minority in all the regions e.g. Mahore, Banihal, Mohu Mangat, Chatru, Paddar etc. The ease with which the terrorists are kidnapping and killing civilians has only brought out the utter helplessness to the Hindus living in these regions. Alertness of security forces rescued 25 members of Hindu community kidnapped by militants on August 28 from hilly Singhpura village of Chatru in Kishtwar tehsil.
Mohu Mangat Massacre
In the latest massacre five shepherds belonging to the minority community were gunned down by the militants in Banihal region. Reports said, Nasib Shah, Amar Singh and Krishan Singh, all residents of Chapnari had gone to the upper reaches of the area to graze their cattle. They were kidnapped from Zamdu village. A group of terrorists dragged the three nomads and beat them up mercilessly. One of the terrorists opened fire and killed Nasib Singh and Amar Singh on the spot. Their dead bodies were recovered the next morning, while the dead body of Krishan Singh was traced by local shepherds from Nowban Dhar a few days latter.
The Army took eight hours to reach the spot, where the killings took place. The Rashtriya Rifles had no presence in the area. The troops had been pulled out during Amarnath yatra. The same have been stationed now to guard the Srinagar-Jammu national highway.
In another incident around the same time, on the night of August 22 in Neel forest area, terrorists kidnapped two aged brothers—Bhagat Ram (70) and Avtar Chand (80). They were made hostage at Chatarnal and shot dead in the hills of Chang about 2 kms away. They belonged to Ladoo, Ramsu. Terrorists also took away at least 70 cattle of the civilians from the two places. During the past one month militants have lifted seven hundred cattle from shepherds in Gool Banihal areas alone. In Mahu Mangat pastures, eleven people were killed during 1995-96, while in August 2000, seventeen people were massacred.
Barely 24 hours after killing thirteen people at Sheshnag, terrorists struck at two places in Cherji and Tagood on Sunday, July 22nd. Two separate units of Lashkar-e-Toiba had come from Marwah and Wadawan forests, a three-day walk from Kishtwar to massacre innocent people. Security forces had earlier arrested the Imam of Tagood mosque and found that he was aiding the Lashkar militants.
Identity of the twelve victims killed at Cherji has been established. They are Madan Lal, his brother Koushal Kumar, Tara Devi, Roshni Devi, her daughter, son-Laxmi Chand, Jodh Mal, Lal Chand, Tej Ram, all residents of Cherji, Madan Lal of Kundana Tagood, Krishan Lal of Gundrana Tagood and Nand Lal of Tagood.
Lashkar-e-Toiba had kidnapped fifteen residents of Cherji village from the pastures of Bhatta Dhar and Jatbandu Dhar. Five of those taken from Bhatta Dhar were shot separately. At Bhatta Dhar 3½ year old child of a couple murdered survived. Cherji is 45 kms from Kishtwar. Among the people massacred at Cherji four were women.
The lone survivor of the Cherji massacre, Deepak Kumar with three bullet wounds was shifted to Medical College hospital, Jammu. He, his mother and others were sleeping in Chatwanda Dhar. On the intervening night of July 21-22 terrorists struck. Deepak had come to the dhok a month back, while his mother Tara Devi had joined him just four days back. At 4 AM on the fateful day, Deepak said that two militants came in battle fatigues and ordered them to line up outside. They then checked their religious identity. The lone Gujjar among them was asked to go. Taradevi sensing their intentions begged for mercy. She asked them to take everything they had and spare their life. They mocked at her saying that they had no hunger for money. "We are hungry for Indian blood," they retorted. Among the villagers was a nine-year old child. The victims were asked to raise anti-Indian slogans. They were then tied up with ropes. Madan Lal's Dhok was at a distance of 100 yards away but he was abducted and brought there. Seema, a village girl sleeping in a dhok adjacent to that of Madan Lal fled after she sighted the militants.
Tara Devi in her innocence earlier had opened the door, when the two militants' knocked at the door. She gave them a cot to sit and lit fire to prepare tea for them. The terrorists kept standing. When the militants forced them to queue up in the open, there were occupants of the other dhok already standing.
The terrorists after lining up the victims and tieing them up opened indiscriminate fire. First to fall down were Tara Devi, Madan Lal, an ex-serviceman and nine-year old Koushal. Deepak got a bullet and fell down unconscious over the body of his mother, Tara Devi. Presuming them to be dead, the terrorists escaped.
Seema, who had seen the terrorists lining up the villagers reached Cherji at 6 AM, almost three hours after the blood shed. Sunder Singh, the brother of Deepak took two PSOs Sewa Ram and Krishan Lal to Dool police post. He alleged that I/C police post, ASI GM Matto neither came to the massacre site nor passed on the message to police in Kishtwar. The two SPOs and Deepak's brother brought the injured Deepak to Dool after 8-9 hours. He was shifted to Kishtwar. From there he was brought to Jammu.
Deepak and his brother were bitter against the government. They said "faulty security set-up led to the killing". Deepak added, "there were no security forces around the upper stretch of Kishtwar where several hundred families-had shifted for grazing their cattle and collecting firewood during the summer season. Earlier, there was security and patrolling by Army in the woodland and we were safe. Militants later frequently appeared in the area after security forces departure". Rakesh, brother of Deepak said people of Cherji had demanded weapons for self-defence but no one listened to them. There was no VDC in the Cherji village.
Mayhem at Tagoot
A few hours before the Cherji massacre, five civilians, four of them being VDC members were kidnapped by a group of heavily armed militants. The militants forced their entry into their houses at Tagoot Gundwarna in Chatru area. These villagers had gone from Tagoot (Gundrana) to Lachna Daar meadows to graze cattle on the morning of July 21. They were accompanied by some VDC members. There was no presence of security forces here and the area is infested with militants. Seven villagers were abducted. Two of the VDC members managed to give them a slip, while others were gunned down. These VDC members informed the security forces about the killing of villagers. The victims at Lachna Dhar were identified as Krishan Lal, Raghunath, Tej Ram, Rattan Lal, all VDC members and Krishan Chand. Tagoot is 8 kms from Chatru.
Shiroti Dhar Massacre
A fortnight later militants struck again in the same area where they had killed eight people. The victims belonged to Luddar village, 40 kms by a Kuccha road from Atholi, the headquarters of Paddar block on the night of August 3, about two dozen militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Toiba swooped down at Shiroti Dhar. They were in combat dresses and some also wore 'khan dresses'. They, as per eye witness accounts, spoke Urdu and Kashmiri. Despite the fact that there had been much violence in the area before and after the Agra summit, there was no security worth the name.
The massacre took place when the shepherds were busy celebrating the annual Yakru festival, two days before Raksha Bandan. This festival is observed by shepherds to symbolise the reunion of their families and heralding of peace and prosperity. The shepherds had been staying at Shiroti Dhar since May last.
During the month preceding the Yakru, shepherds observe fast and abstain from taking curds, ghee and milk. All this is stored. At the conclusion of the fast, their families rejoin them. Joint prayers are held and a grand feast organised. The same evening shepherds send back their families. The following day, their family members visit local temple at Shrioti Dhar to pay obeisance. After this the stored curd and ghee are sent home. Nine days after Yakur festival is the celebration of Saru function. During this, shepherd families distribute a part of these milk products among the neighbours before selling or using them.
This year the month-long fast had ended on August 2. After taking dinner, twenty-two shepherds had gone to sleep on 'tands'. These are improvised wooden cots, made with stones lined upon two sides and a wooden slab to cover it. After a brief chat, they sang merrily the local folk song, "Gucchi Jeera, Ghana Jungalaan Da Neelam Khan..." (a popular song boasting about the precious local products found in the area). After this they went to sleep in two dhoks, unmindful of what awaited them on hour later. The shepherds were scheduled to get up at 4 AM to feed the cattle and graze in the pasture. Seventeen of them were sleeping in one dhok, while another six took the rest in the other dhok.
At 11-30 PM, three militants speaking Kashmiri knocked at the door of Chaplot Sigh's house ad directed the family members to light a earthern lamp as it was pitch dark. Chaplot Singh lit the lamp. One of the militants then began writing down the names of the villagers. He rechecked from the shepherds if anyone of them was a Muslim. The militant then talked on a wireless set to his commander, who gave directions for the massacre. Three militants sprayed bullets on them, killing thirteen persons. Chaplot Singh received three bullets.
The five shepherds in the adjacent dhok heard a militant conversing with his accomplices in Kashmiri 'make them stand in a queue and then open fire'. Tara Chand then asked other four shepherds to immediately leave the place. They had hardly moved a few metres, when staccato sound of gunfire arrested their attention. The victims' watches had been taken away before shooting them. They had also been looted of radio-sets, cash, cigarettes and bidis. Krishan Lal and Milk Raj who were sleeping on guard duty on the roof-top of dhok survived the attack. The militants had, in fact, precise information and were asking about them.
The deceased were identified as Panna Lal (50), Girdhari Lal (30), his brother Ram Nath (25), Chanchal Singh (38), Raj Nath (28), Gori Lal (48), Suresh Kumar (18), Mohinder Pal (20), Bal Krishan (28), Puran Lal (50), Surender Singh (18), Mool Raj (18), Balwant Singh (25). Five injured included Dev Raj (18), Chaplot Singh (25), Mohan Lal (20), Narinder Singh (50) and Des Raj (25).
Chaplot Singh and Desraj were among the first to receive the bullet shots. Chaplot fell down and managed to hide beneath the dead bodies of other villagers, his three maternal uncles—Gauri Lal, Raj Nath and Chanchal Lal. All being hit by bullets they cried for water and were in great pain. The militants remained sitting on the entrance of the dhok to ensure that all the villagers were dead. As the victims were writhing in pain, the terrorists were sadistically enjoying and smoking cigarettes and bidis. Then they escaped towards Bhalesa forests. The security forces came to know about the massacre only the next day, when one of the survivors reached the nearest police station at Atholi. Narender, hit by a bullet on the hip feigned death. Five hours later he gathered courage to trek six hours to reach Atholi police station. He recalled, "they (the militants, closed the door, lined us up in a single row and fired at will". Narender had fallen down among the heap of bodies. Thirteen hours later security forces brought the bodies to Atholi.
The villagers were unconsoling and blamed Central government and Dr Abdullah for their killings. They burnt down two shops and attacked some houses.
Soon after a joint team of army and Special Task Force, STF engaged the terrorists in a fierce gun-battle at Bindraban on Himachal-Kishtwar border. Three top LeT terrorists, including the outfits' district commander, Abu Ghulam alias Mujib-ur-Rahman responsible for Atholi massacre were killed. A diary recovered from Abu Ghulam recorded, "the warriors of the LeT have killed nineteen unbelievers. This is our challenge to the Indian government", This was the third massacre in Paddar area. On May 10, seven Hindus were killed in Saggar, Atholi.
In Singhpura, Chatru twenty-five civilians of minority community were kidnapped at 4.30 hours on August 28, by terrorists. Among the civilians were also some VDC members. Militants, numbering between 8-10 kidnapped civilians from their houses and were taking them to a hilly area for killing. People of the village managed to contact the patrol party of security forces in time, who rushed to the spot. A fierce encounter ensued, which lasted for 20 minutes, after which the militants fled away leaving behind two weapons. All 25 civilians, majority of whom were youths, were rescued by security forces from captivity of the militants. Two militants, injured in the encounter managed to escape but left behind their weapons. After kidnapping, women members of the families had started wailing anticipating the killing of their near and dear ones. Alertness of security forces in Keshwan area of Kishtwar same day pre-empted another massacre.
Aug 27, 2001:Two militants entered the house of Pratap Singh (22) last midnight and dragged him out. They pumped bullets on him, killing him on the spot and then fled away. He was a VDC member also and belonged to Kali Mata village in Gool.
Aug 28, 2001:Terrorists stormed an ancient temple of Kali Mata at village Dandak, 28 kms from Poonch in Surankot tehsil. They dragged two widely respected Pujaris of the historic temple, who were sleeping. They beheaded both of them. After slaughtering them, the terrorists took away their heads about 100 metres away and kept them on road in two different directions. Militants, as per eyewitness accounts were 4-5 in number and stayed in the temple for at least 20 to 30 minutes.
The militants before leaving also caused minor damage to the temple.
The slain Pujaris were identified as Pandit Narotam Dass of Dundak and
Baba Devi Dass of Sunderbani. Pandit Narotam Dass, the main priest of the
temple as a famous astrologer and palmist and used to be visited by people
of both the communities. The Kali Mata temple was, in fact, established
by both the communities long back, when prediction about a Muslim family
had come true. Baba Devi Dass, a priest of Luxmi Narayan temple, Sunderbani
had taken a night halt at Kali Mata temple, while proceeding towards Budha
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