April 2000 News

Migration of Sikhs from Valley begins

19 April 2000
Hindustan Times
Arun Joshi

Jammu: The Reverbations of the massacre of 35 Sikhs in Chattisinghpora village are still being felt in the Valley. In fact, the migration of Sikhs from Kashmir has begun. They have started coming in small groups to avoid detection at the border. The massacre and the events following have driven a wedge between Sikhs and the majority community. And this is only helping the exodus. A visit to the Relief Commissioner''s office is enough to gauge the gravity of the situation. Most are fleeing their lives and have made it clear that they want to settle elsewhere. They are going about it in a hush-hush manner, but the queue in front of the relief commissioner''s office says it all. Chattisinghpora, in South Kashmir, grabbed international headlines when the massacre took place last month. It had coincided with United States President Bill Clinton''s India visit. Villagers there have been so shaken by the event, that they are scared of talking to the media or even having their photograph taken. They somehow feel this could jeopardise their chances to migrate and threaten relatives they have left behind. Says one Sikh who spoke to this correspondent, ''Kashmir is no longer safe for us.'' This feeling is being echoed by most from his community. Their outrage over the incident also seems to have made matters worse. Though this was a spontaneous reaction to such a colossal tragedy, it has been misinterpreted as a ''ploy to malign the majority community''. ''This was never our intention,'' said one of the villagers on condition of anonymity. Students killed in crossfire: Two school students were killed and 28 injured in a grenade explosion by militants and retaliatory fire by security forces personnel - the original and the intended target of the grenade throwers. It was at 11.50 this morning when militants hurled a grenade towards an Army vehicle of 15 Rashtriya Rifles in Iqbal market in Sopore, a town in north-western Kashmir, 50 km from Srinagar. The Rashtriya Rifles (RR) men opened fire in air and rushed through the market leaving behind panic and chaos. The BSF personnel manning pickets in the market area also opened fire. The incidents left two students Rubina Akhtar and Abdul Qayoom dead and 28 bystanders injured. The condition of seven of them were critical. The police said that the RR men opened fire after the grenade was thrown at them. They said that the militants hiding in the market also opened fire and it was in the crossfire that the two students died and others suffered injuries.


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