Arjun Singh Rathore
The scars of terrorism run deep, and while they may fade with time, ‘they never disappear’.
Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations has always remained a global challenge. India has always remained a holy cow for the extremists right from it’s existence. The stories of loot, mass murders, rape, and conversions all are the examples of terrorism. But there is something special in the blood of Indians, the survivors and victims always showed a “great resilience, courage and spirit”, forging global alliances, addressing and countering false narratives spread by terrorists and their sympathisers and raising their voices and sacrificing their lives against the threat of terrorism and the absence of justice.
Since independence the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir suffered a lot. Although India gave a befitting reply, but the people of the state had to sacrifice a lot. The worst is the era of early nineties. Kashmir started burning in late eighties and after the migration of Kashmiri Pandits, the whole world’s limelight focused on them. And the sufferings of the militancy victims from the Chander Bagha River Valley and Pir Panchal Range got suppressed, despite of the fact that the maximum of assassinations of civilians from the minority community took place in the areas of Kishtwar, Bhaderwah, Gandoh, Saraaj, Marmat, Mahore, Dharal, Mandi, Mehander and Poonch. We all remember the massacre of Chatisinghpora but a few know that a total of around ten major massacres happened in erstwhile Doda district, with more than 300 innocent civilians of minority community were shot dead from point blank range. Among all, the youngest martyr was as old as just six months and the oldest being 84 years old. Can anyone digest this how a six month old toddler and an 84 year old bodach can be a threat to heavily armed terrorists?
Many innocent lives have been tragically cut short by these ruthless atrocities. On 10th of May and 7th of June we observe Martyr’s day in Kishtwar and Bhaderwah and pay rich tributes to our leaders especially Amar Shaheed Satish Kumar Bhandri, Parihar Brothers, Rucher Kumar, Swami Raj Katal, Santosh Thakur, etc., who sacrificed their lives for our better tomorrow. But there are some brave stories of some unknown unsung young heroes who laid down their lives while fighting bravely with foreign mercenaries. The prominent among them were a little known Maheshwar Singh and Manjeet Singh. Maheshwar Singh was born to Ajit Singh in village Puneja Bhaderwah. On the fateful night of 27th March 1994, a group of more than fifteen foreign militants who were heavily armed attacked the house of Maheshwar Singh. Maheshwar retaliated for the whole night with one 1935 model .303 rifle but in the wee-hours of morning when Maheshwar fell short of ammunition, fearing the death of his whole family came out of his house and engaged one of the militant in hand to hand fight. He gave a solid punch to that militant who couldn’t resist to that blow and fell unconscious on the ground but the bullets of other gunmen pierced through the body of Maheshwar, who attained the martyrdom at the age of 28 years. The story (Veer-Gatha), doesn’t stop here. The mutilated body of Maheshwar was recovered with multiple stabs, his head was chopped off, eyes were gouged out, and private parts were cut. The story of another young teenager Manjeet Singh S/o of Amarchand Katal R/o Puneja Bhaderwah is in no way different to that of Maheshwar, who also scarified his life in the same fashion at the tender age of 16.
Let us turn these harrowing experiences into powerful and positive forces for change. Victims and survivors often face challenges in seeking justice, including difficulties accessing information before, during and after the criminal process, as well as a lack of appropriate gender and age sensitive mechanisms or coordination to provide longer-term medical, financial and psychosocial support. By listening to them, we can learn more about how to unite our communities against terrorism. Let us commit to showing the survivors that they are not alone, and that the whole nation and community stands in solidarity with them, wherever they may be. The long-term, multi-faceted support to victims and survivors of terrorism is taken care by the respective governments and the civil society so that they can heal, recover, rebuild their lives and help others.
Supporting victims of terrorism is one way in which we live up to our responsibility to defend their rights and our common humanity. Governments must do more to advance victim-centred, rights-based criminal justice approaches as part of comprehensive counter-terrorism frameworks that address all aspects of victim needs even as they hold perpetrators to account. As on date as against the total of around ten thousand families who migrated from these areas only 1200 approximate families are registered with Commissioner Relief. The Government and the NGOs must come forward to get the remaining families registered and subsequently they must be bailed out with the monthly relief along with any other package including jobs on compensate grounds, at par with other migrants who suffered due to this militancy.
One of the courageous survivors of terror attacks, who became widow at the age of 21 with a four month old son, remembering the horrifying night of June 19, 1998 of Champnari Doda speaks out against hatred while sharing the experiences. “I have lived with the pain of this for many years and it has been hard,” she acknowledged. But recently she decided that to help herself and her son, she needed to forgive, as “the only way…to move forward”.
Another brave story of Joginder Singh of a small village Lehota around 50 km from Doda, who was just 7, when along with his other five siblings, he fought bravely for the whole night with a group of around a dozen militants of HM, till the arrival of army in the morning. When dawn broke, 20 family members with bullet wounds were found on the blood-soaked mud floor, fifteen of them were dead. Joginder who lost his parents, two brothers, grandmother, three uncles two aunts and five cousins in the massacre grew up in a Jammu orphanage, is now a masters in commerce from Pune University. He is the first post-graduate of his clan. He still believes to have a simple but self-sufficient life by farming in his own land.
Now when the life is limping back to normalcy, it’s our duty and responsibility and the best ever homage one can pay to the victims is to keep alive the undying love for our motherland and ensure that our coming generations remain connected with a desire to live to the hilt, untarnished by sordid passions and murky politics, to the land for which our elders have sacrificed their blood.
Our emotional connect with our land of our birth be ensured that we recognize the palpable contrast between the enchanting beauty of our motherland and the glazed eyes of our people. Our sensitivity must ensure that the umbilical cord connecting us to the land in which Nagas meditated to willingly renounce the self wasn’t severed.
Our cultural pride, inspire us to hear the strains of mystical music, not just cacophonous sounds of hate and virulence. Despite having witnessed so much of turmoil, we must not lose our robust faith in the resilience of humanity.
Arjun Singh Rathore