Jan 25, 1998: When 23 Kashmir Pandits were killed in central Kashmir

‘Government probe was flawed’

Download Our Android App and Stay Ahead!

Srinagar: A Valley based Kashmiri Pandit’s body Monday claimed that investigation with regard to the killing of 23 Kashmiri Pandits at Wandhama village of Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district was imperfect and the probe report was a distorted one.

On 25 January 1998, 23 Kashmiri Pandits living in the village of Wandhama were killed by unidentified gunmen. According to the testimony of one of the survivors of the incident, a 14-year-old Pandit boy named Vinod Kuman Dhar, the gunmen came to their house dressed like Indian Army soldiers, had tea with them, waiting for a radio message indicating that all Pandit families in the village had been covered. After a brief conversation they rounded up all the members of the Pandit households and then summarily gunned them down with AK 47 rifles. The slain Pandits had chosen to stay in Valley despite the fact majority of their community members had migrated to Jammu.

The locals of Wandahama village are still tight lipped over the massacre saying they don’t know who butchered their Pandit neighbours. “Everyone was busy in prayers. It was a blessed night of ‘Qadar’ when news about the massacre spread in the village,” said a local. However, Government held militants responsible for the massacre and claimed that all the militants involved in blood bath were killed in encounters with Indian troopers.

The incident had occurred during Farooq Abdullah’s Government and the case was closed when Omar Abdullah was ruling the state. The police investigation had stated that the killing was carried out by Harkat-ul-Ansar outfit.

In February 1998, police had said six militants of Harkat-ul-Ansar were killed in Safapora area of Ganderbal and another injured militant was apprehended.

“On interrogation the injured militant before his death, according to the police, divulged about involvement of 21 members of Harkat-ul-Ansar in killing of the victims,” Kashmir Pandit Sangharash Smiti president Sanjay Tickoo told CNS.

He said the police also claimed that 13 other foreign militants who were involved in the massacre were killed later.”Police should furnish copies of FIRs and investigation reports under which they claim that these foreign militants were killed in encounters with armed forces. Based on the police response there should be two FIRs where the killings of these foreign militants have been registered and investigated. We urge that the police should be asked to provide a list of these 20 foreign militants killed and the place where they have been buried,” Tickoo said.

He said the statement of the injured militant, who later died in the hospital as per the police, was crucial. “Police have failed to produce their ‘recorded conversation’ with the militant. No doubt the victims were compensated but the investigation conducted into these killings was full of flaws as there are number of questions that need answers,” he said. (CNS)