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The Kaluchak Massacre: Does India remember this brutality, 18 years on

The apathy has been systemised but we need to remember that peace reigns because these army men stand its guard and to let their memory fade away, their sacrifices forgotten will make for our collective sin as a nation.

The leftist cabal of media in recent years has made sure that the terrorists who are hailed as martyrs by the Islamic separatists in Jammu and Kashmir are humanised and forcefully fed into our collective memory while the Indian security forces who along with their families are the first victims of the Islamic separatist movement or “Jihad” as Islamists call it are wiped off from the memory of this nation. 

Not only this, but the Islamists intelligentsia has also created a narrative and an ecosystem where hatred against the Army personnel is normalised. The recent “sheroes” of Barkha Dutt and Ravish Kumar Ladeeda and Ayesha Renna who celebrated the Pulwama massacre and are ardent sympathizers of Afzal Guru and supporters of the separatist movement in Kashmir have been lifted to glory and are being hailed as ‘Burqa-clad empowered Muslim’ women. 

There are multiple such terrorist sympathisers who have spewed venom against the Indian security forces as well as India on multiple platforms labelling the army as “rapist/oppressors” and very recently “war criminals” (by Mehoor Parvez) but the leftist cabal of media always finds a way to justify such hatred against Indian army, resulting in apathy towards the soldiers. 

It is the result of this common apathy that the perpetual attacks on Army personnel are forgotten and buried in an unvisited corner of our conscience.  The Kaluchak Terrorist attack which took place exactly 18 years back on this same day, 14 of May has been wiped off from our collective memory. 

14 May 2002, Kaluchak, Jammu and Kashmir: The Massacre

Mid May is that time of the year when Army children are eagerly waiting to revisit their hometowns and enjoy summer vacations with their extended family members who otherwise are very far away from their parent’s military posting area. May 2002 would have been the same but Operation Parakram, the biggest ever military stand-off on Pakistani border by India as a response to The Parliament Attack of 2001, was still going on and there was a possibility of a full-blown Indo-Pak War.

In the early hours of 14 May 2002, three Pakistani terrorists managed to sneak into Indian territory from Samba region. While wearing Army uniforms, they reached the highway few miles away and boarded a Himachal Pradesh Roadways bus going towards Jammu city.  On entering the Jammu district, the armed terrorists masquerading as army-men asked the passengers to disembark from the bus in Kaluchak (about 15km from Jammu). 

The passengers mistaking the terrorists for security personnel due to the army uniform assumed that they were being asked to get down because of some security measure. Suddenly, the terrorists started shooting at the passengers and driver. The driver Prem Kumar and 6 passengers (including woman and children) were killed and many others were injured as the terrorists threw a grenade while they were disembarking the bus. 

The sounds of the gunshots and grenade explosion diverted the attention of nearby sentries of Army Camp Colony, giving terrorists an opportunity to lob hand grenades towards security perimeter and storm into the nearby family quarters of Khetarpal Vihar Lines of Kaluchak military station. In the Khetarpal Vihar, like most of India, little children were getting ready to go their nearby Army School Kaluchak or Army School Ratnuchak for one of the last few days before summer vacations begin and as a result, many of the army quarters’ front gates were open or unlocked just like any other morning. 

Unfortunately, this wasn’t ‘just’ any other morning, the heavily armed terrorists entered the army family quarters, whose gates they found open and brutally shot down whoever they saw in the homes.

A two-month-old infant, Gagandeep, was killed while she was in her sleep, a child was gunned down while in the bathroom, a schoolgirl was shot dead in front of dressing table as she was getting ready for her school. A woman stood at the door to block it, that didn’t allow one of the terrorist to enter their home; another woman dragged away some of the children to a corner, while another faced all the bullets to save her little son. The loss of lives of women and children falling victim to inhumane terrorists (who enjoy massive support from the human rights lobby) added to the agony of their surviving kith and kin.

By the time security forces rushed to the scene and launched the operation to hunt down terrorists, 21 people(8 women, 10 children and 3 army men) lost their lives in the Kaluchak military station, apart from the 7 killed in the bus. Also, 47 people were severely injured in the Kaluchak. Many of the army quarters were partially damaged and carried bullet marks and were bathed with the blood of innocent women and children whose family members stand for the nation’s security. One barrack and several vehicles were destroyed in the ensuing encounter. All the terrorists involved in this attack were 19-20 yrs old and all were from Pakistan(1 from Faisalabad & 2 others from Gujranwala). This attack invited a huge rage from army families across all the cantonments and military stations, particularly in Northern Command, they demanded an attack on Pakistan, as such there was already a massive build-up of troops along the border.

Subedar Attar Singh and his wife were heartbroken and grief-stricken for life as they lost both of their children, Subedar Attar Singh said,
 “As a father, I can never get over the death of my own children. I only wish they had fired at me and not at my innocent children”. Subedar Gurdev Singh, who was at a forward post on the border ready to sacrifice his own life for the nation when the cowardly terrorist attack took away the lives of his wife and daughter said, “We want war with Pakistan only to reply to the numerous terrorist strikes against our people.”

Brigadier Preeti Arora who was commandant of 166 Military Hospital, Jammu said that she would never be able to forget the scenes on 14 May in her rest of the life. The dying children and cries of the wailing mothers wallowing in pain and loss of their beloved kids still echo in her ears. She further said that the need of the hour is for common people to learn from the sacrifices of defence personnel and stand up against terrorists.

While remembering and narrating the horrible course of events that took place that day Ashish Tripathi whose father was posted on the border during that time for Operation Prakaram says, “I was about their age group (11 years at that time), I wore the same army school uniform like them but while I completed my school in that uniform those children getting ready for the school never made it to school again and left the world. The attack was emotionally traumatizing for all of the Army children and families. We carry immeasurable anguish from the horrific memories of that day. The incident filled our minds with terror, trauma, and loss that we will haunt us for life.”

Timeline of the Kaluchak Massacre

All political parties in India condemned this attack and criticised Pakistan in one voice. (thankfully, no silly theories emerged as all the terrorists were identified as Pakistani citizens, unlike the Pulwama attack of 14th February 2019 in which 40 CRPF personnel martyred and hundreds of soldiers injured and instead of grieving the loss, the media made celebrities out of Ayesha Renna who wrote “Pulwama se panga nahi, bye bye” with an attached image of the list of the martyred CRPF Jawans. And the politicians were busy in indulging in divisive conspiracy theories to link the terrorist attack which was a part of the Islamic, Jihadi movement in Kashmir to the upcoming elections.)

The international leaders condemned this attack in the harshest words including George Bush of USA, European Union Presidency and leaders from Russia, Japan and Germany. Australia listed Lashkar-E-Taiyyaba as a terrorist organisation. Parvez Musharraf taken aback by the international backlash condemned this terror attack and got Hafiz Saeed arrested but ironically he carried on with his warmongering speeches.

Though Indian Army pressed on the government to attack Pakistan for this attack, the government couldn’t proceed with such request as Pakistan was serving as a military base for US troops involved in Afghanistan operations against Al-Qaeda.

The attack was gradually forgotten by the public as the government in states and centre changed in the subsequent elections and affected army persons moved out to different places of postings, yet a handful of us do remember that unfortunate day when Islamic terrorism manifested it’s brutality in this unimaginable and horrific terrorist attack, sparing not even an infant.

The financial assistance for the family who lost their kin at that time was just ₹1 lakh for the dead and ₹75k for the seriously wounded. No amount can ever compensate for the loss of lives of the innocent children, women and duty-bound courageous men, yet this financial assistance is insubstantial.

Reading about this brutal attack I realised that this too has been buried too deep in our memory as a nation to be forgotten like all other countless, incessant and unrecognized sacrifices of our army men. The nation, a youth which will wake up indifferent, unaware of the brutality that our army men have suffered and the loss they have borne to celebrate a social media hashtag of “Thursday Throwback”, and not realizing not all ‘Throw Back Thursdays’ will have happy memories; and somewhere a father, a mother, a family who readily sent their youth to fight for the country on the border will still be carrying the trauma and grief of the loss of their loved ones, how will it ever be able to empathise with them. 

The apathy has been systemised but we need to remember that peace reigns because these army men stand its guard and to let their memory fade away, their sacrifices forgotten will make for our collective sin as a nation. 

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