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August 2, 2000
Kashmir massacre survivors recount horror: AFP
Traumatised surviviors from a spate of massacres by militants in Kashmir were recovering in hospital on Wednesday -- their injuries compounded by concern over missing relatives.
Dozens of seriously injured had been transported to hospitals in the Kashmiri summer capital following the overnight killings that claimed 93 lives.
"I will never come near Kashmir again. Why did I not listen to my family?" said Lal Bhadur, a 20-year-old survivor of a militant attack on a migrant brick-making community near Anantnag in southern Kashmir that left 19 dead.
Doctors in Srinagar's main orthopaedic hospital said Bhadur, who received several bullet wounds, had a 50-50 chance of survival.
Another wounded Anantnag survivor, Shankar, recounted how four gunmen knocked on the door of the labourers' dormitory a little after midnight.
"They said their truck was stuck and asked the men for help," Shankar said.
"When we came out, they started counting heads and then opened fire without warning.''
"I don't know how many of us have been killed. I don't even know where I am," he said.
Dr Tajinder Singh said the hospital had taken in 22 injured, most of them with multiple bullet wounds.
"Two have died since this morning and six are in a critical condition," he said.
A pilgrim, Poonam, brushed away questions about a nasty abdominal wound she received in the Pahalgam attack.
"Is everyone in my family okay?" she asked.
"I think my brother is dead because I saw him falling to the ground."
Resham Singh, who accompanied his injured 11-year-old son to the hospital, recounted what he remembered of the massacre.
"I could see two masked men firing with automatic weapons. Then there was a series of deafening explosions," Singh said.
"My son was shot in the neck. I don't know if he is going to survive." Buddha Giri, a 56-year-old pilgrim, who was shot in the leg, took a fatalistic attitude towards the incident. "I blame nobody. Maybe I am a sinner and god wanted to punish me," he said.
Hundreds of Hindu pilgrims were fleeing Pahalgam, the picturesque hill station, a day after rebels killed 33 devotees on their way to the holy Himalayan cave of Amarnath.
Panic was the predominant sentiment at the base camp for Hindu pilgrims undertaking an arduous journey to the cave.
Atma Ram, a pilgrim from the eastern state of Bihar, said he was returning without visiting the Amarnath shrine, revered by millions of Hindus.
"I had come here for a pilgrimage. But I am totally scared and have decided to return home."
Hundreds of pilgrim-packed cars, buses, trucks and jeeps were seen leaving Pahalgam, despite overcast skies, which could make their return journey home difficult.
"This is a valley of destruction," said Akash Chand, a pilgrim from the northern Indian city of Chandigarh.
"I could hear gunmen firing at the tents for at least 10 minutes without interruption," said Sanjeev Parishar of New Delhi, who added that local Muslims had helped the wounded in Pahalagam to go to hospital.
Nissar Shah, a local shawl-seller, said, "I was doing brisk business when all of a sudden firing started from two points. At least a dozen people were hit by bullets and three died on the spot."
Ghulam Ahmed Peer, the chief civil administrator of Pahalgam, claimed the attackers were foreign militants.
Ashok Kumar, a pilgrim, said, ''The shooting started at around 18:45 hours IST. I rushed towards my bus but I was hit in the leg by a bullet. It is due to god that I am still alive."
Kumar said, "They were firing at will. And they looked visibly relaxed."
Witnesses said blood-soaked clothes, caps and footwear littered the camps where the rebels struck. Police brought in sniffer dogs to the site on Wednesday to look for concealed explosives.
Scores of Kashmiri Muslims flocked to Pahalgam on Wednesday to check on the condition of friends and relatives who ran shops or businesses in the resort town. "I have failed to trace my two sons," a worried Srinagar housewife, Farida Banu, said.
In New Delhi, Home Minister L K Advani appealed for communal restraint following the massacres.
Blaming the attacks on Pakistan-backed militant groups, Advani said the violence had been orchestrated by Islamabad to spark communal violence across India.
"The aim of our neighbour is not only to kill innocent people, but to trigger sectarian violence across India," Advani told the lower house of Parliament.
"This is not a challenge for Hindus or Muslims but for the entire nation," Advani said.
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