2 decades after Prankote massacre, survivors remain neglected lot

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Apr 22: Two decades after the gruesome killing of 29 people from minority community in Prankote area of Mahore in Reasi district, some of the villagers including survivors of the carnage, continued to live in tented colonies with nobody from the Government bothering to take their care notwithstanding the tall promises made to them at the time of killings by the politicians.
It was on the intervening night of April 20 and 21 in 1998 that a big group of 14 militants including nine foreigners of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and five locals had descended on village Prankote in Mahore tehsil of then Udhampur district, now part of Reasi district, and set the house of innocent civilians on fire by sprinkling kerosene oil.
“It was a gruesome tragedy. The people including children, who tried to come out of their burning houses were pushed inside by notorious militants, killing 29 civilians, 12 of them children,” recalled one of the survivors of carnage, Vidya Devi, who had lost number of her family members.
Vidya Devi along with others was putting up at Talwara migrant camp in Reasi district for the last 20 years now.
“By massacring innocent civilians from the minorities, the militants wanted to force migration of the minority community from the area and they succeeded in that as majority of Hindu families had shifted to Talwara and Pouni in Reasi district within few days of the killings,” said Chamail Singh, another survivor of the massacre, who is also putting up at Talwara migrant camp.
Majority of migrant families continued to put up at Talwara and Pouni migrant camps as they refused to return to Prankote as they couldn’t even remember the horrified way their family members and relatives were brutally tortured and killed by the  Pakistani and local militants.
Gouri Singh, another survivor of the massacre, said “every year on April 20 and 21 night, we pay tributes to the civilians, who were brutally killed by the militants at Prankote, while putting up at the migrant camps”.
Survivors recalled that the then Home Minister LK Advani, then Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah and many politicians had visited the village to express sympathies with them but they were given meager compensation and job and no attempts were ever made by the Government to rebuild their houses and take them back.
“Even at the relief camps at Talwara and Reasi, we are getting meager relief despite repeated demands and Court directions that we should be given relief at par with Kashmiri migrants,” said another survivor.
The survivors regretted that not only the successive Centre and State Governments and the administration but even the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in power now, has never bothered to visit the migrant camps and meet the survivors of Prankote, one of the gruesome massacres in the history of Jammu and Kashmir since the outbreak of militancy in 1989.