Pogal massacre victims wait for justice

Kr Swarn Kishore Singh
Pogal Paristan, a beautiful set of countryside hamlets on terrains rising from the edge of NH44 in district Ramban and setting down in mountains of district Anantnag effectually bordering Kashmir from Jammu. It is a region which is known for its beautiful landscapes and lofty mountain peaks. Foggy night of ending July, 2000, in higher reaches of Pogal, five foreign terrorists visit a little hamlet and as a part of their standard operating procedure, the five terrorists dispersed in two groups i.e. 3 and 2 terrorists in each group. They had visited this hamlet as part of their exercise for fresh recruitment since they had readied two new guys to be taken away next morning for their further training. To their dismay Indian army got information of their movement and hence cordoned the little hamlet overnight. Indian Army waited till the dawn when the group of terrorists was leaving the village and they somehow noticed that they were trapped. Out of desperation they opened fire and Indian army retaliated thereby killing one of the terrorists; forcing the two fresh recruits to drop their plans off to become jihadis while the other two sneaked through.
After a couple of days i.e. on the intervening night of 31st July and 1st August, 2000, around 25 jihadi terrorists with a plan to wreck havoc and revenge the killing of their fellow terrorist reached Pogal. In a neighbourhood the group of 25 jihadis readied themselves; got a clean shave and changed their clothings with army camouflages. Subsequently they left for a small Hindu hamlet namely Kunda (Pogal), a village which was making preparations for celebrating the marriage of one of their sons. As a part of their plan, the camouflage clad group of terrorists straight away went to house where that marriage was going on and told the father of prospective groom, “We are from Indian army and since we have certain inputs of movements of some terrorists in this area therefore we are here for your protection. We intend to talk to the whole village, so please gather all male members at one place”.Consequently the male members of the whole hamlet gathered at one place i.e. in the house of the father of the groom, a small kutcha room barely 150-180 square feet in dimension. What happened afterwards can shake the conscience of anyone having a sound mind. The terrorists made the whole lot sit in a room along with the groom and started indiscriminate firing on them thereby killing them all. Even the prospective groom was not spared. It was the bloodiest affair in the history of Pogal Paristan ever.
While on the retreat upwards they went through places which are a sort of summer house for people of Pogal i.e. Onbara and Gujjur-behak, they met 5 shepherds and killed them as well. The killings weren’t made in some rage but a very cold blooded and planned murders. The barbarianism of those radical Islamic terrorists can be well ascertained by the fact that before shooting one of them point blank, they talked to him at length. That person had no clue as to what they had done few hours ago in Kunda. The terrorists urged him to bring some water for them as they were thirsty, which he did. Just after they did quench their thirst of water, the radical islamic terrorists quenched their thirst of hate for Hindus as well by shooting him point blank. It wasn’t Kunda only but the terrorists did strike at different places all across the stretch of Pogal Paristan and committed 22 murders that night.
Imagine the fear and frenzy; for next 36 hours the dead bodies were not picked for their final rites. The people of the area had vacated the whole area for some safer place in Ramban. It was only after the then Union Minister of Defence, George Fernandes along with GOC Northern Command visited Ukhral and the mountains of Pogal Paristan were cordoned by Indian army, the dead bodies were picked and final rites were conducted. Imagine a scene wherein around two dozen pyres are lit at one go. Almost every Hindu family in the whole Pogal Paristan directly or indirectly had a relative massacred in this pogram.
Few months ago, I even visited the village Kunda (Pogal), infact the very room where the Kunda massacre took place. I talked to some victims as well, their account of the massacre was indeed very saddening and disturbing. Just imagine a mother narrating an account of how his teenager son was murdered in front of her eyes and all she could do was wail and sob. Horrifying!
The then Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah did never turn up for the victims as it would have had probably not gone well with his political agendas. No one from the State Government ever tried seeking apology for their failure to protect the minorities as the enduring charm of Farooq Abdullah stands reserved for his own people and religious minorities do not qualify for that. The worst part of this fiasco is that even when more than two decades have passed our rulers have got no scruples for what they have done to the religious minorities of Jammu & Kashmir.
When around 22 people were murdered, a couple of FIRs were lodged and after some time a closure report was filed by Jammu & Kashmir Police, which if legally interpreted means either nobody killed them or state was unable to protect them. After such large scale massacre and fear frenzy, who protected these people? Some policing agency or other forces? No, it were the people themselves.
This massacre was the point after which a full fledged mass migration could have had got a massive trigger but the people reacted differently. They stood by their people, stood for their land & didn’t desert the land of sacrifices of the martyrs. The situation in the whole region was a powder keg but the people did keep their instinct intact and reacted differently. The minorities of Jammu and Kashmir did go through some severe afflictions and hard knocks for over decades but they were determined not to leave their land and consequently they did eke out their life style by adopting some newer survival tactics.
Sadly few questions remain unanswered till now i.e.
* Who were the people who effectuated this massacre?
* Is such a massacre possible without local logistical support?
* Was there some local logistical support available to the terrorists? If yes, were they prosecuted ?
* If there was some local logistical support, then what forced the state and its investigating agency i.e. Jammu & Kashmir Police to grant those terrorists impunity?
* After Jammu & Kashmir Police filed those FIRs, did they investigate the matter honestly ?
* What might have had forced the JKP to file a closure report?
Is the closure report filed by Jammu & Kashmir Police as an official endorsement of terrorism by our state?
* Was there some scheme introduced by government for the wards of the martyrs like there is a scheme for children and family of terrorists ?
(Has anyone from State Government ever visited and consoled any aggrieved Hindu family of our state?
While massacres kept on happening the Government papers were being sanitised enough as today in government records the massacres aren’t anything more than a blip. See the irony, in last more than a year we have seen a lot of charge-sheets getting filed in different courts for disobeying the orders of district magistrate but for the massacres, Government has filed closure reports while the investigating agency of the state ironically infers that no one killed those innocent and unarmed Hindus. They might have sanitised the papers but history stays stained.
(The author is an advocate and a political commentator)