Massacres at Imoo and Katren
the onset of fundamentalist insurgency for the predominantly Bihari labourers
working at different brick-kilns, Kashmir
was their `Gulf'. Compared to stark poverty with poorwages in their hame state
these labourers got reasonably good wages from brick-kiln owners. Their Kashmiri
masters had to be`extra-kind', for Kashmir
faced acute shortage of local labour to do the toughest of the jobs. The
phenomenal affluence that Kashmir has
reaped due to extra munificence by the centre led both to spurt in construction
work and high wages due to shortage of labour manpower. Massive influx of
predominantly Bihari labourers, unlike Punjab,
was mostly the result of construction boom in 1975-1990.
were also other Biharis who simply came to teach hatred and fundamentalism to
Kashmiris. But that is another story.Initially victims of the Kashmiri
separatists' ethnic-cleansing campaign were native Kashmiri Pandits and
non-ethnic Kashmiri Hindus. Other vulnerable groups believed, as during Nazi
rule, that ethnic-cleansing campaign had a very restricted agenda. Targeting of
Sikhs, Shias, migrant labourers in recent massacres belies all this. Every
variant of separatism in
local or alien smacks of sectarian hatred. If there is any difference it is only
of degree and expediency of the situation. If JKLF today talks of`Gandhisim',
how can it be erased from the exiled Pandits' mind that this group initiated
their killings and ethnic-cleansing campaign, a process carried to its
culmination by Hizbul Mujahideen and mercenary outfits. Expediency, rather than
change of heart and mind explains the dilemma faced by the separatist outfits
year, when fifteen brick-kiln Bihari labourers were massacred in Anantnag on
by local militants, the migrant labourer community woke up in disbelief. Didn't
they keep these kilnsgoing on despite every adversity? What did their
`kind-masters' do toprotect them from any eventuality? The State government as
usual, instead of providing security to them, allowed the situation to drift.
Wiser ones took the cue and preferred poverty to safety of their families and
themselves. Even after this massacre five thousand labourers stayed put, just
like 1216 Kashmiri Pandit families and 5400 Sikh families.
hardly three hours after the massacre of 31 yatris at Pahalgam on August 1, a
group of six terrorists, three of them wearing ferans (Kashmiri gown) and
sporting long beards appeared at Imoo (Sondhu). This is the same place where
above-mentioned massacre had taken place. The terrorists, as per one report,
fired few warning shots. The labourers, whose identity was well-known to the
terrorists, were working at the kiln of Haji Hamza Dar of Brakpora.
tried to run for safety, but were chased by the gunmen who fired
indiscriminately at them, killing seven and injuring another six. The victims
belonged to UP and MP. Another version said they were called out of their
jhuggis, lined up and shot.The Qazigund-Achhabal belt, abounds in brick-kilns.
50 brick-kilns housed here, employ hundreds of migrant labourers. Given the
concentrated character of their settlement, it was not difficult for the State
government to ensure fool-proof security to them. The govts. of the states, to
which these labourers belonged-Bihar, UP and MP also failed to discharge their
responsibility of impressing upon the State government and the Centre to take
due care of their safety.
massacre, which took place 1½ hr later, at 10:30 PM, third in
3½ hrs in the same district with heaviest security cover is even more glaring.
This incident took place, where five non-Muslim truck drivers were killed by
terrorists on, February 29 last and which was just at stone's throw from the FCI
godown, guarded round the clock by CRPF.
village of Qazigund, is 500 yards away from the
on Mirbazar-Akhran road. Two labourers, Jaipal of Bothdi Chapajangir (MP) and
Jagdish of Rai Bareili (UP) survived to tell the world `Aankho Dekhi' of what
goes on in Kashmir in the name of "freedom movement".
terrorists in army uniform appeared at their jhuggis and asked the male folk to
help them out in taking out their vehicle, which had skidded off the road. 27
labourers, who fell in the trap were lined up in a queue. The terrorists,
displaying sadist instinct took the headcount and opened indiscriminate fire.
Seventeen people fell dead on the ground, whereas two others succumbed to
injuries later. Out of the five injured, one had nine hits of bullets. Three
lucky ones, which included Jaipal and Jagdish fell in a drain. They feigned as
dead until the gunmen escaped from the spot. Gunmen withdrew only after being
sure that all their victims were either dead or injured critically.
past five years, Katren massacre was the fifty one involving the migrant
labourers. Earlier ones had taken place at Lasjan, 1 km away from Badami Bagh
Cantonment, besides Handwara and Sondhu (Achabal).
time, the migrant labour community looked so harassed and terrified that they
did not even wait for the cremation of dead bodies at Imoo and Katren. Nearly
730 labourers left in ten SRTC buses for their future destinations after these
These labourers, like other `soft targets', would be lessbothered about the
`postmortems' and puerile analyses which will follow. For
instance whether terrorists were local or alien or were these simply acts of
`desperation'. The truth lies some where else. Themighty Indian state and its
political leadership, has utterly failed `totie the rakhi to the nation', to
borrow the latest cliche from the venerable Prime Minister Vajpayee.