What Peace? Asks Angry, Grieving Kashmir Town
14 June 2005
The Times of India
Pulwama: Headless bodies, bits and pieces of human flesh that became indistinguishable from black, burnt pieces of metal and half- finished exam papers... The bloody, scarring images left behind by Monday's car bomb attack in south Kashmir's Pulwama town - which killed 14 people and was said to be the most devastating in 16 years - are hard to shake off. Anger, grief and rumours are running so high in the town that people have only harsh words for the administration. 'What use are the India-Pakistan confidence building measures (CBMs) when we continue to be cannon fodder for both war and peace?' asked Manzoor Bhat, a resident of Pulwama, just 35 km from state capital Srinagar. Locals have been adamant that the destruction was caused by 'some explosive dropped by an over-flying air force fighter plane'. Indian Air Force has a base in Koel village, four kilometres away from Pulwama town. Fighter planes on reconnaissance flights keep landing and taking off from there. Javaid Mukhdoomi, inspector general of police (Kashmir Zone), tried to set the record straight. 'There was a sonic boom in the area that coincided with the car bomb explosion. This created some confusion in the minds of the locals,' he said. No one can forget the deaths at high noon Monday, one of the saddest days in the state. School children had hardly started writing their exams in a central school there when the demon of death descended with fire and fury. 'You can see half finished exam papers. Two of our students who thought they were shaping their future became victims of this madness,' said an emotionally choked teacher at the school. The dead include two schoolchildren, three paramilitary officers and nine civilians, three of whom had gone to the local district magistrate's office to fill forms for the Haj pilgrimage to Makkah. Over 100 people were injured in the blast. 'Fifty injured people have been discharged after treatment while another 46 are undergoing treatment in hospitals in Srinagar city and Pulwama town,' a senior health department official said here. A valley wide protest paralysed life here with transport, educational institutions, banks and business establishments remaining closed Tuesday. The authorities, who were taken by total surprise by the explosion, took full four hours to determine the source of this massive explosion. Owais Ahmed, the south Kashmir chief of police, said: 'It was a car bomb. A Maruti car had been laden with RDX and parked 50 metres away from a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp in the town. Militants set the massive charge off around 11.35 a.m.' But hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani is adamant. 'It is an incident of aerial bombing by the Indians,' he told reporters. Geelani and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Sallahuddin called for a general strike to protest the Pulwama deaths. A television reporter was roughed up by locals as he went live telling viewers that a truck laden with explosives had been detonated by separatist guerrillas to cause the destruction. Police had to use tear gas shells followed by gunfire to disperse an unruly mob that pelted stones and shouted slogans against the administration. A day like Monday is too perhaps long for the locals to wait for some distant peace that is so near, but so elusive.