ANANTNAG: It has been 18 years since the night 35 Sikhs were massacred in Chittisinghpora village of Anantnag district in South Kashmir, 18 years that justice has still only eluded the families of those slain.
It was on the fateful night of 20 March 2000 that men in army fatigues forced almost all male members of the village’s minority Sikh community into a playground, fired into them indiscriminately and, but for one, killed them all.
Nanak Singh, now 63, was the massacre’s lone survivor, remaining alive through multiple surgeries and the replacement of his hip joint.
Singh however lost his 16-year-old son, his brother and three cousins to the massacre.
Kashmir Reader tried, on the 18th anniversary of the massacre, to talk to Nanak Singh, but he was in Jammu and his phone remained switched off.
A member of the community’s Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee spoke to Kashmir Reader of the fear and abiding helplessness of that night’s events: “They were led to the ground on the pretext of militant presence in the area. Had we had any inkling of what was to follow, we might have done something to save them.”
The massacre at Chittisinghpora was followed within less than a week by the Army’s killing five men on 25 March 2000 in the infamously named Pathribal Fake Encounter. The Army claimed the slain men were ‘foreign militants’, but as the name of the encounter suggests, those killed turned out later to be civilians.
Eight more people were subsequently shot dead in Brakpora area of Anantnag district as government forces opened fire on people protesting the Pathribal Fake Encounter.
The Sikh community of Chittisinghpora has since named the Pathribal Fake Encounter and the Brakpora Killings as “salt rubbed to our wounds”.
The community has been demanding a thorough probe into the massacre, the fake encounter and the killings in Brakpora with the idea that the three incidents should be treated in continuity.
On the 18th anniversary of the massacre, the All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) expressed dismay over the delay in justice to the families of the 35 slain Sikhs.
APSCC chairman Jagmohan Singh Raina said, “Although 18 years have passed, no headway whatsoever has been made in the case and the delay in justice has led to disillusionment among the members of Sikh community.”
“A total of 50 people were killed in Chittisinghpora,” he said, in reference to the Pathribal Fake Encounter and the Brakpora killings.
“It is important that justice be delivered to the victim families. At the same time, investigations need to be carried out into the sequence of events that unfolded later on as 15 more persons, belonging to the majority community, were also killed.”
Raina castigated successive governments for the delay in the delivery of justice to the families of the victims.
“Then chief minister Farooq Abdullah had publicly assured that the culprits would be soon arrested. Till date, the promises made by the former CM and the present dispensation have proven to be a hoax,” Raina said.
Meanwhile, prayer meetings and mourning assemblies have been scheduled to be organised on Wednesday in Chittisinghpora village as a mark of remembrance for the departed souls.