April 2003 News

'We Are Poor People, Why Attack Us?'

25 April 2003
The Indian Express

Srinagar: As the politics of peace takes centrestage in Kashmir, death came calling, striking terror among ordinary villagers. A grenade lobbed into the Pattan civil court compound killed three, including a young woman, and injuring 35 others - all waiting for a hearing. 'It was a rain of fire,' recalled Ghulam Hassan Gujri. 'I heard a deafening blast. My body was drenched in blood'. Gujri, a 58-year-old farmer - with daughter Kulsooma (30) and two-year-old grandson Arif - had travelled 20 km from Karhama to attend a marital dispute case. 'We were waiting for the hearing to begin when the blast occurred. Everybody ran for their life. I was hit and could not move,' Gujri said. He had lost contact with his daughter and grandson in the chaos. 'I saw my daughter Kulsooma crying for help. There was blood all over her face. The child was nowhere,' he said. 'After 10 minutes of hell, people came and picked us up.' Blood had clotted on his lips and his hands were scarred by splinters. Gujri was restless and grabbed a doctor for information about his daughter and grandson. 'My family back home would be waiting for us. Our lives are already full of misery. My daughter has problems with her in-laws and lives with me. We had come to attend the court,' he said. 'Now I don't know whether she and her child are alive or not. Why will anybody want to target us. We are poor people,' Gujri said. Though everyone told Gujri that they were alright, a paramedic who had accompanied the injured to Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Science, Soura, said Kulsooma and Arif were in critical condition. Next to Gujri's bed lies Mohammad Ashraf Beigh. Shrapnel had damaged his face. He couldn't say much as his mouth was swollen. His family has no clue and there was no way to contact them as the village doesn't have phones. Mohammad Akbar Mir from village Baniyari has shrapnel wounds on the chest and knee. 'I was standing next to a tree and that saved me,' he said. 'I saw the grenade landing right in the middle of a group of women. I saw people falling in the small stream. An infant was struggling to come out,' he said. 'For a moment I felt, shrapnel had cut off my leg.' Mir had not been able to find his neighbours, who had come with him. 'People were crying for help all around. I limped out and hitched a ride with a man on scooter, who took me to Hajan. I left a message for my family with the police there and was carried here in an ambulance,' he said. 'Why will anybody attack in such a place,' his mother said. This is the second attack in the last three days where villagers fell victim to a blast. In Tral, six villagers were killed and dozens injured when militants blasted an improvised explosive device.


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