June 2004 News

'They came to wipe out two clans of Gujjars'

27 June 2004
The Hindu
Luv Puri

Marrah: The killing of 12 members of the Gujjar community yesterday was aimed at wiping out two kunbas (clans) of the community for taking up arms against militants. Survivors' accounts of the massacre indicate that the threat to the Gujjar community was always looming. The 50-member Village Defence Committee (VDC) at Marrah had valiantly blocked the strategic route of the militants in Poonch district for the whole of last year. For militants infiltrating through the forward areas of Poonch district from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the Hill Kaka area of Surankote has remained an important destination. They used to trek from the foothills of Surankote to the Hill Kaka bowl which till last year had a dense concentration of militants. Marrah area comes half way between Baffliaz (situated on the foothills) and Hill Kaka. Militants were effectively deprived of a destination which they had used over the years as a transit point. VDCs blocked the routes of the militants, thereby giving an edge to the counter-militancy operations launched by the Army in the area. The attack yesterday, as the witnesses put it, was no ordinary one and even rocket launchers were fired to 'wipe out the entire community.' AK-56 rifles and Rocket Projectile Guns (RPGs) were used in the attack. Rashida, a survivor, said: 'We kept on crying for help for more than two hours but nobody came. Militants thought that they had killed everyone. Actually those who survived jumped into a nearby nullah and took shelter in the bushes.' The news of the incident reached the nearest police post after two hours and help came after four hours. Sharifa Begum, another survivor, said: 'They (militants) came last year and beat us up for helping the Fauj (Army). We were told by the Army not to go to the pastures but we had no option as our cattle had to be fed.' -A local Lashkar-e-Taiba militant, identified as Mohammad Karim, had asked them to give up arms or 'be prepared to face the worst.' On Saturday morning, the militants asked the local people to deposit their weapons but the Gujjars refused. Shahnaz, another survivor, said: 'They had automatic rifles whereas we had .303 rifles. We gave a good fight but we were helpless.'


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