March 2000 News

Massacre fails to cause migration

31 March 2000
Daily Excelsior

Chithi Singhpora: Even as both, the ruling National Conference (NC) as well as the separatist Hurriyat Conference, had no voice at the 10th day Bhog ceremony of the 35 slain Sikhs at this farflung village of Anantnag district today, religious and political leaders of different hues infused a sense of confidence among the much-harassed minority community and made it shelve the idea of mass migration from the Valley. The Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, Akali Dal leader Simranjit Singh Mann, SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Chaman Lal Gupta, Congress leader Rajesh Pilot as also the separatist leader Shabir Ahmed Shah and Mohammad Nayeem Khan addressed the solemn congregation of aobut 20,000 Sikhs amid intermittent spells of downpour. Even as Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah, Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and the Muslims of Anantnag were conspicuous by their absence, separatist leaders Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan made it to the venue and shared the stage with the BJP, RSS, Congress and Akali Dal leaders. NC Government''s ministers Messrs P L Handoo, Pirzada Ahmed Shah and Mushtaq Ahmed Lone attended the function but none of them chose to make a speech. All through, they were mute as some of the Sikh leaders from Punjab demanded the Chief Minister''s resignation, lamenting that the State Government had failed to protect the minorities in the Valley as also in parts of Jammu. A number of speakers including Chaman Lal Gupta, Madan Lal Khurana (in conversation with the Press), Harmendar Singh Gill and others made a special mention of Dr Abdullah''s absence. Majority of the Sikh leaders ignored direct reference to Pakistan and the separatist militant whom they have been holding responsible for the Chithi Singhpora massacre. However, quite a number of others put the blame, in unequivocal term, on Pakistan. They reminded the fraternity that it was a Sikh General of Indian Army who had delt the blow of Bangladesh to Pakistan and made 94,000 soldiers of that country to surrender. In 1971. ''How can Pakistan forget that humiliation?'', they asked. Significantly, the State Sikh leaders did not offend any body and instead, stressed on maintenance of age-old communal harmony among Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs in Kashmir. As the BJP leaders Chaman Lal Gupta and Madan Lal Khurana described Pakistan mother of all trouble, held it responsible for dozens of massacres in Jammu and Kashmir and vowed to have the killers punished, both Shabir Shah as well as Nayeem Khan made fiery speeches. By insinuations, they held the Government of India and her security forces responsible for the carnage and demanded ''an independent probe'' by Amnesty International or Asia Watch.'' As soon as the news of the massacre broke that morning. Indian Home Minister Advani offered guns to the Sikh community. What does that suggest'', asked Nayeem Khan. He pooh-poohed Chaman Lal Gupta''s suggestions of framing Village Defence Committees and arming the Sikhs for self-protection. ''When the Indian Army cannot protect its Corps Headquarters at Badami Bagh, how can it protect you poor people in distant villages?'' he grumbled over the public address system. Shabir Shah was equally vociferous in declaring that Kashmir''s Muslim majority was the real security for the Sikh brethern. He described the masscare as a result of ''a deep-rooted conspiracy aimed at mass migration of the Sikhs from Valley.'' ''One would make it possible only on our dead bodies,'' he shouted and assured the audiences that the entire Muslim community of Jammu & Kashmir was with them through thick and thin. ''The massacre is nothing but a conspiracy to defame Kashmiri Muslims and their freedom movement,'' Shah asserted. He even produced the father of a youth to the gathering and said that his son had been arrested with the charge of the Sikhs massacre. ''If that is proved, you should cut my throat with a sword,'' he addressed the BJP leaders Chaman Lal Gupta and Madan Lal Khurana. Union Minister Chaman Lal Gupta, Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur, Congress leader Rajesh Pilot, former Union Minister and BJP leader Madan Lal Khurana and Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party president Shabir Ahmad Shah addressed the Sikh residents and advised them not to leave the Valley. Jammu and Kashmir Ministers, P L Handoo, Pirzada Ghulam Ahmad Shah and Mushtaq Ahmad, were not allowed to speak. The three Ministers made repeated attempts to speak but were not allowed to do so by the organisers. Badal, who presided over the religious ceremony, said he would meet Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on April 14 to find a permanent solution to Sikh problems in the Valley. He said Sikhs would not take any decision on leaving the Valley in haste, adding this is not a small issue and any step in this regard would be taken after a thorough debate. The Centre and the State Government shall have to take necessary action and fulfil certain demands of Sikhs to avoid recurrence of such incidents, Badal said. Khurana said the Centre was working on an action plan for Sikhs living in 150-odd villages of Kashmir to ensure that they do not migrate. The plan was under final stages and would be implemented soon, the BJP leader said, adding under the plan, Sikhs would be recruited in BSF, CRPF and Rashtriya Rifles and deployed in Kashmir. Bibi Jagir Kaur gave cheques worth Rs 1.50 lakh each to the next of kin of those killed by the militants. BJP MP S S Aluwalia and Akali Dal MP Jagmit Singh Brar threatened to disrupt Parliamentary proceedings if the Government did not take effective steps to ensure safety of Sikhs in the Valley. BJP general secretary Narinder Modi said nobody can force Sikhs to leave Kashmir at gunpoint. Mohammad Nayeem Khan, chairman of Kashmir United Front, a constituent of Hurriyat Conference, appealed to Sikhs not to leave Kashmir. Union Minister Chaman Lal Gupta said Kashmir had witnessed many massacres during the past ten years at the behest of Pakistan. Shabir Shah said Sikhs can leave the Valley only over bodies of Muslims. Those behind the massacre shall be brought to book. He said conspiracies were being hatched to divide people of Kashmir on religious lines. Rajesh Pilot said his party was ready to do anything for Sikhs residing in Kashmir.


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