Poonch massacre survivor now faces eviction

SRINAGAR: A widow from Mohra Bachi, in Poonch district, 16 of whose family members were first shot and then burnt to death on June 29, 1999, by “three unidentified gunmen,” is being “forced” to vacate the government quarter given to her by the state government a year after the massacre took place.
Zahida Parveen, the only survivor of the massacre, says the state government had given her the government quarter at Surankote, five km away from her village, where she has been living for the last 14 years with her daughter and old parents. But this year, during Ramadan, government officials have warned her thrice to vacate the place, she says.
“During their raids, a team comprising sub-district magistrate, SHO and the naib tehsildar of Surankote threw my things out of the quarter. It was when locals intervened that I was allowed to spend the month of Ramadan here. But they have given me an ultimatum till July 19. They said if I did not leave by then, they would throw me out along with my family. I don’t have any place to go and I don’t know why they are doing this to me,” says Zahida.
Zahida adds there are four more families living in the quarter, however her family is the only asked to leave. The officials, according to her, have not even sent her any written order.
“They tell me it is the revenue department’s property so you (Zahida) have no choice but to vacate. Is it the revenue department’s property only for me and not for other families?” she asks.
Recalling the night of the massacre, Zahida says it was 12:30 am when three unidentified gunmen barged into her house, assembled all the 16 members in one room and started to search the house. When they were leaving, Zahida says, they fired indiscriminately into the room and then threw gunpowder on the house and burnt it completely. All 16 members, including two pregnant women and her husband, died. Zahida, who was also pregnant, was miraculously saved but her right leg was injured. The police later lodged an FIR and an amount of Rs one lakh was paid to her as ex-gratia relief.
“For six months I was hospitalised at Jammu and delivered a baby there. Seven lakh rupees were spent on my treatment. While the relief amount of one lakh was spent on treating my leg, the rest of the money was collected through public donations,” Zahida says.
She now earns a living and supports her remaining family by tailoring clothes. However, her brother, who is a driver by profession, does help her out in times of need.
Repeated attempts by this correspondent to contact the SDM and DC, Poonch, failed as mobile phones of both officials were switched off.
On his part, MLA Poonch, Shah Mohammad Tantray, told Kashmir Reader that he was ready to help Zahida in whatever way possible. “Tell this family to meet me as soon as possible. I will personally look into the matter to get their issue resolved,” he said.