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Photo: Abdul Qayoom

Militants massacre 24 Hindus

"This morning a colleague phoned me. 'There has been a massacre in Kashmir,' he said. 'Twenty-four Kashmiri Pandits killed.' It jolted me out of my slumber. He told me it had happened some hours ago in a village in south Kashmir. He did not know where exactly. He wanted me to leave for Srinagar. I had known that. I had been leaving for Kashmir every time some maniac pulled the trigger and killed innocents. I would run to my room, throw a few shirts, jeans, a notebook and my camera into my backpack, lock my room and head for the airport."
-- Basharat Peer on, March 26, 2003

Basharat Peer's friend was referring to the Nadimarg massacre in Pulwama district: 11 women, 11 men, and two children, killed by terrorists dressed in police uniforms. The village had just 11 Kashmiri Pandit families -- 52 people in all. Not a single family remained untouched by the militants' madness.

There was little or no resistance from the policemen guarding the village. They tamely surrendered their self-loading guns before the terrorists asked the villagers to gather in the courtyard of an unoccupied house and showered them with bullets.

Nadimarg's Pandits had refused to leave the Kashmir valley when thousands of others from their community fled their homeland for the refugee camps of Jammu and Delhi. This had made the Muslims in Nadimarg and the neighbouring villages very protective of them. But on March 24, 2003, hatred and intolerance triumphed over love and brotherhood. The Pandits' Muslim neighbours were helpless.

The massacre was a big blow for the Mufti Mohammed Sayeed government, elected to office less than six months earlier. Suddenly the Mufti's promise of a 'healing touch' looked shaky and another exodus of Pandits from the valley imminent. It took all of the state government's persuasive powers to prevent the Pandits from deserting Nadimarg. Some Pandits alleged that the government employed coercive tactics to hold them back.

Text: Pankaj Upadhyaya

Also read: 24 killed

Complete coverage: More reports from J&K

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