Did the Government ignore Warning Signals
KS CorrespondentThe alert government in a proxy-war situation is more cautious in protecting the soft targets, when there is lull in violence. It is true that since July 19, 1999 no major massacre involving the minority community had taken place in Doda. By March, 2000 the highest authorities in the security set-up were making tall claims about improvement in security situation in Doda district, while expressing concern over the deterioration of law and order position in Poonch-Rajouri and Jammu districts. This despite the fact that whereas in Poonch-Rajouri, Romeo Force had notched up top successes in counter-insurgency campaign and its operation goodwill had worked well, leading to inter-gang clashes between Hizbul Mujahideen and foreign mercenary groups. In Poonch-Rajouri Army was trying to reach medium-range hideout areas in its seek and destroy operations, but in Doda the policy of recovery without losses was still being pursued.
There were enough signals that militants were upto some great mischief in Doda district. Sequence of events tell their own tale.
May 29, 2000: Massacre bid was foiled by local people, who had tipped BSF about the presence of a top Hizbul Mujahideen militant Mohd Iqbal and his associates in Thuru Kunj, Doda. The militants had come from higher reaches to indulge in selective killings of minority members. In the ensuing encounter, terrorists mixed up with the civilian population and escaped.
June 25, 2000: VDC member Ranbir Singh, son of Makrit Singh was killed in an encounter at Bear Dhar in Dessa village of Doda.
July 30, 2000: Over seventy families of the minority community migrated from villages Hari Chuma, Chager, Ramso and Chapenwari. Two more families with 15 members left Taryath forest area as militants threatened them of dire consequences if they did not entertain their demands. The minority community members were constantly living under grave threat as they were often roaming freely and entering their houses. The militants asked men to act as porters and the womenfolk would be allegedly molested by mercenaries. On the intervening night of July 27 and 28, one Thoru Ram, son of Faquir Chand was kidnapped but he managed to give slip to militants and reached Kallyar.
The uprooted families from these villages of district Rajouri and Udhampur said that there was no sign of security forces in the villages and they were sitting ducks for the militants. At least we are among our own people. But back at home who would have performed our last rites. Our bodies would have decomposed by lying at one place. Despite repeated please through deputations, administration took no step in providing security to the villagers in these militancy-prone villages. Defamation campaign against the Army in Doda. Under a definite plan to implement the twin fold aim of ISI in the region -- paralysing the counter-insurgency operations and carry out ethnic-cleansing campaign, militants in connivance with a section of media, some higher-ups in the local administration and some politicians, launched a vicious campaign against 5-Sikh Battalion, which has been deputed in the area to conduct anti-militancy operations.
Pressure was being built to withdraw the Army from Gandoh tehsil. Over 60,000 people, comprising Hindus and Muslim Gujjars on July 6 threatened to migrate to bordering town of Chamba in HP, in case the State government went ahead with the plans to withdraw Army from the area. "We will migrate enmass to Chamba district of HP if our protectors are shifted from Gandoh", the villagers said. Gujjars in Doda district have refused to cooperate with militants and suffered serious reprisal killings at the hands of militants.
Mercenaries in this area, owing allegiance to Hizbul Mujahideen had let loose a terror campaign against Gujjars. One Afghani "Maj Gouri" and his gang had been abducting young girls from the area. Till date 24 Gujjars and 22 Hindus had been killed by the militants in this tehsil. In 1994 following a massacre people had sought shelter at Kalkijugasar in Chamba.
Recently posted 5-Sikh Battalion had been doing a commendable job in eliminating top militants from the area. Civil administration was maintaining total indifference to the atrocities of militants and security of vulnerable people. Instead of taking concrete steps to crush militancy, people alleged, that the administration had a tendency to bow before some local leaders, who have launched a sinister campaign to malign army.
Under this campaign, such allegations as enforcing beggar (forced) labour, maltreatment and torture of local porters and atrocities against common villagers leading to their mass exodus are being raked up to cause demoralisation and disaffection against the disciplined force.
The newly inducted 5-Sikh Battalion had been enjoying exceptionally good rapport with the local Muslims. That the terrorists were manipulating the local media came to light when a mischievous report, appearing in a section of the media said 20 villagers from Chinyas had migrated due to security force "atrocities". Five youth of Chinyas and Amretpur villages aged between 12 and 15 years of age were grazing cattle in the higher reaches of the mountains on 3 July. These youth were picked up by the terrorists to recruit them for insurgency. Army helped the youth in escaping the clutches of the militants and this irked the moles of the separatists.
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