Chattisinghpora Calling

Fourteen years on, authorities seem to be in no mood to probe the infamous Chattisinghpora massacre of March 20, 2000, when gunmen, whose identity has not been ascertained to this day, massacred 34 Kashmiris in cold blood. The hamlet in South Kashmir was stormed by 15 gunmen wearing army fatigues. All males, including children, were herded towards the local Gurudwara, and the gunmen then opened indiscriminate fire, killing 34 persons in cold blood. Scores sustained injuries. One of them later succumbed in hospital. Officials have been accusing militants of the gruesome act, while the resistance leadership sees the hand of intelligence agencies behind the deed. Amid these accusations and counter-accusations, justice has become a casualty.

A survivor blamed the local unit of the Rashtriya Rifles of inaction. According to him, the attackers wore military uniforms, and were led by a man they addressed as ‘Commanding Officer.’ After killing the innocent villagers, the gunmen left, chanting Hindu slogans. They also left behind bottles of liquor.

The massacre took place during the US President, Bill Clinton’s visit to the subcontinent.  The Government of India and the State Government were quick to put the blame on the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. The All Parties Hurriyat Conference, however, accused the Indian government of carrying out the killings to discredit the Kashmiri independence movement, while Syed Salahuddin, the head of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen said: “Mujahideen have nothing against the Sikh community which sympathizes with our struggle. We assure them that there never was and there will never be any danger to Sikhs from Kashmiri freedom fighters.”

In the introduction to her Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God,  and World Affairs, Madeleine Albright she accused “Hindu militants” of perpetrating the act. Hindu organizations protested, and ultimately the publishers edited it out of new editions and acknowledged the error in an email to the Times of India.

The government chose to probe other minor incidents related to the event. Demands from various quarters, including pro-India political parties and the Amnesty International, for probing the massacre have gone in vain. This has made the people believe that the government wants to conceal material facts about the killings. But the truth can be unveiled even now if the government conducts a thorough and impartial inquiry. Even as people observe the 14th anniversary of the massacre today, the greatest tribute to the victims would be to bring the culprits to justice.