April 2000 News

Packing their bags by night, J-K village Sikhs start leaving

23 April 2000
Indian Express
Pradeep Dutta

Jammu: She has abandoned her village. Also, the mustard crop ready for harvesting. What she has brought along is a couple of trunks carrying her life's belongings, her daughter and memories of her two slain brothers-in-law. Sukhbir Kaur belongs to one of the 28 Sikh families which have left Chittisinghpora, Anantnag, since the massacre on March 20. Despite government promises and efforts, migration out of the traumatised village has started. Loading trucks with their belongings by night, hiding from their Muslim neighbours, the Sikhs have started leaving Chittisinghpora. Ask the migrant families why they left, and they ask you why they should have stayed. Davinder Kaur lost two sons in the carriage. Her voice choked, her eyes brimming with tears, she recalls: ''Two days before his death, my son Gurmeet told me he was expecting a good yield this year. He didn't even live to see it.'' Most families lost their sons or husbands in the massacre, and the land like Davinder's now lies unattended. The migrants laugh at the security provided by the government as reassurance. ''Even if women decide to go to work in the fields, where are the securitymen to guard them?'' asks Satbir Kaur. ''Yes, a few of them are stationed near the gurdwara hall, but the area where our fields are is open.'' Now, they are worried about their children, who haven't attended school since the massacre. Most of them used to go the school in Gurdwara Samandhari Hall. Five of its teachers died in the March 20 carnage, and the school is closed since. ''Wives of two of the killed who also used to teach there are still in a state of shock,'' says Satpal Singh. Mothers of the children studying in other schools are too scared to let them out of their sights. ''We can''t trust anyone anymore,'' says one of the migrant women. ''If a man who used to give us milk for years can be a party to the killing our our husbands, what is the guarantee that other militants will not abduct our children?'' Asked abut allegations that security forces were involved in the killing, Sukhbir Kaur clenches her fists in anger. She says even if one thought the security forces were behind the killing, who was the behind the threats to her brother-in-law, Nanak Singh, the sole survivor of the Chittisinghpora killing? According to her, a Muslim doctor feared for Nanak's safety at Bones and Joint Hospital, Srinagar, and her brother-in-law was shifted to the Army Hospital in Badami Bagh. Sukhbir is willing to admit that they might miss their Kashmiri neighbours, with whom they had spent a lifetime. However, she adds, it can't replace the freedom they now have to express their feelings. But even that might be an illusion. Fear stalks the migrants still, now on account of their relatives and community members still in the Valley. Sacred for their safety, many are hesitant to talk to the press.


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