News

DATE=6/19/99 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT NUMBER=5-43691 TITLE=KASHMIR CROSSFIRE BYLINE=JIM TEEPLE DATELINE=SRINIGAR CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: IN KASHMIR, FIGHTING CONTINUES, WITH INDIAN ARMY TROOPS BATTLING GUERRILLAS INDIA SAYS ARE BACKED BY PAKISTAN. MOST OF THE FIGHTING IS TAKING PLACE ON STEEP RIDGES HIGH IN THE HIMALAYAS. BUT THAT IS NOT THE ONLY PLACE IN KASHMIR WHERE THERE IS CONFLICT. FAR TO THE SOUTH OF THE MOUNTAIN BATTLEFIELDS, IN THE KASHMIR VALLEY, THERE IS ALSO FIGHTING. AS V-O-A'S JIM TEEPLE REPORTS, FIGHTING IN THE KASHMIR VALLEY IS TAKING ITS TOLL ON CIVILIANS TRAPPED BETWEEN INDIAN SECURITY FORCES AND MILITANT ISLAMIC GUERRILLAS. TEXT: // ACTUALITY OF WAILING AND CRYING, IN AND UNDER // FOR THE WOMEN OF THE VILLAGE OF KHAROGAM, THERE IS LITTLE TO DO BUT CRY. MANY HAVE LOST EVERYTHING THEY HAVE -- THEIR HOUSES, THEIR JEWELRY AND THEIR FARM ANIMALS. ALL THEY HAVE LEFT IS THEIR FAMILIES. SEVERAL DAYS AGO, KHAROGAM WAS A PROSPEROUS VILLAGE WHERE 500 FAMILIES LIVED. MOST MADE THEIR LIVING WEAVING WORLD-FAMOUS KASHMIR CARPETS AT A SMALL LOCAL FACTORY. NOW, LIKE JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE IN KHAROGAM, THE CARPET FACTORY IS A SMOKING HULK OF A BUILDING -- TOTALLY DESTROYED. VILLAGERS SAY -- OF 70 STRUCTURES IN KHAROGAM -- 45 ARE GONE, BURNED TO THE GROUND BY AN ELITE INDIAN ARMY FORCE KNOWN AS THE NAGA TWO. ACCORDING TO VILLAGERS, INDIAN SECURITY FORCES -- CONSISTING OF MOSTLY OF ARMY UNITS AND BORDER POLICE -- SURROUNDED KHARAGOM ON THE NIGHT OF JUNE 14TH. THE TROOPS WERE LOOKING FOR A SMALL GROUP OF ISLAMIC MILITANTS WHO, ACCORDING TO THE VILLAGERS, WERE EITHER HIDING IN A VILLAGE HOUSE OR UNDER A BRIDGE. IN THE FIGHT THAT FOLLOWED, SEVERAL MILITANTS WERE KILLED. ONE CIVILIAN ALSO DIED, TRAPPED IN CROSSFIRE ON BUS WHICH HAD STOPPED AT THE VILLAGE. FOLLOWING THE FIGHT ARMY TROOPS CONDUCTED HOUSE-TO-HOUSE SEARCHES, LOOKING FOR MILITANTS. VILLAGERS SAY, IN THE PROCESS, ARMY TROOPS EITHER BURNED DOWN MANY STRUCTURES OR FORCED VILLAGERS TO SET FIRE TO THEIR OWN HOUSES. LOCAL TEACHER FAYEZ TILEGARMI SAYS IT TOOK SOME TIME TO DESTROY KHARAGOM. // TILEGARMI ACTUALITY // EVERY HOUSE WAS BURNED. FOR TWO DAYS THE FIRE CONTINUED. YESTERDAY (JUNE 16TH), THE FORCES LEFT THE VILLAGE AND, AS YOU CAN SEE, THERE THERE ARE ANIMALS KILLED. THE MILITANTS WERE UNDER A BRIDGE THAT'S WHAT WE TOLD THEM, AND IF YOU SUPPOSE THAT THEY WERE IN A HOUSE THEN ONE HOUSE SHOULD BE BURNED, IT IS THE WHOLE VILLAGE THAT HAS BEEN BURNED, THE WHOLE VILLAGE. // END ACTUALITY // KHARAGOM IS ABOUT 50 KILOMETERS NORTHWEST OF SRINIGAR, THE SUMMER CAPITAL OF INDIA'S JAMMU AND KASHMIR STATE. THE VILLAGE IS IN THE HEART OF THE KASHMIR VALLEY, ABOUT 300 KILOMETERS SOUTH OF WHERE INDIAN ARMY TROOPS ARE FIGHTING GUERRILLAS ON STEEP MOUNTAIN RIDGES. // OPT // KHARAGOM IS SURROUNDED BY APPLE ORCHARDS AND TERRACED RICE PADDIES. THE AREA LOOKS PROSPEROUS AND PEACEFUL. HOWEVER, FOR NINE YEARS, INDIAN SECURITY FORCES HAVE BEEN WAGING A FIERCE FIGHT WITH ISLAMIC MILITANTS THROUGHOUT THE KASHMIR VALLEY. // END OPT // THE INDIAN ARMY SAYS IT CANNOT COMMENT ON WHAT HAPPENED IN KHARAGOM BECAUSE IT HAS NOT YET CONDUCTED AN INVESTIGATION. MAJOR P. PUROSHATTAM -- THE INDIAN ARMY SPOKESMAN IN SRINIGAR -- SAYS ARMY POLICY IS TO EVACUATE CIVILIANS BEFORE AN ENCOUNTER WITH THE MILITANTS. // PUROSHATTAM ACTUALITY // EVEN WHERE YOU HAVE HOUSES WHERE THE MILITANTS HAVE BEEN HIDING, THE OWNERS OF THOSE HOUSES HAVE BEEN TAKEN OUT BEFORE THE ACTUAL ENCOUNTER STARTS -- SOMETIMES AT GREAT RISK TO THE SOLDIERS, THEMSELVES. THIS HAS BEEN THE POLICY FOLLOWED ALL THROUGHOUT (THE INSURGENCY) -- TRYING TO GET OUT THE INNOCENT SO THEY DON'T GET UNNECESSARILY CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE. // END ACTUALITY // MAJOR PUROSHATTAM SAYS THE INDIAN ARMY INVESTIGATES INCIDENTS WHERE TROOPS ARE ALLEGED TO HAVE COMMITTED ABUSES AND TAKES WHAT HE DESCRIBES AS CORRECTIVE ACTIONS, WHEN NECESSARY. JUST TWO DAYS BEFORE KHARAGOM WAS DESTROYED, AT LEAST 50 HOUSES IN THE KASHMIR VALLEY VILLAGE, BANDIPORE, WERE BURNED TO THE GROUND -- ALLEGEDLY BY MEMBERS OF THE INDIA'S BORDER SECURITY FORCES ENGAGED IN A FIERCE BATTLE WITH ANOTHER GROUP OF MILITANTS. FOREIGN JOURNALISTS WHO TRIED TO TRAVEL TO BANDIPORE WERE TURNED BACK BY POLICE. LOCAL AUTHORITIES IN KASHMIR WHO ASK NOT TO BE IDENTIFIED SAY -- EVER SINCE FIGHTING BROKE OUT ALONG THE KARGIL FRONT, 300 KILOMETERS TO THE NORTH -- MILITANTS HAVE STEPPED UP THEIR ACTIVITIES IN THE KASHMIR VALLEY AND INDIA'S SECURITY FORCES ARE BECOMING MORE NERVOUS. // REST OPTIONAL // IN KHARAGOM, ABDUL MAJID SAYS HE BELIEVES THE SECURITY FORCES WHO ATTACKED WERE TRYING TO SEND A MESSAGE TO THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN THE KASHMIR VALLEY. // MAJID ACTUALITY // THEY WANT TO SAY TO EACH COMMON MAN LIVING IN KASHMIR, IF YOU GO AHEAD WITH THIS MILITANCY WE WILL DO THE SAME, WITH EACH AND EVERY HOUSE, WITH EACH AND EVERY VILLAGE OF THE VALLEY. // END ACTUALITY // THE RESIDENTS OF KHARAGOM SAY THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY WILL DO NEXT. THEY SAY THEIR CARPET FACTORY WAS NOT ONLY DESTROYED, BUT 35 VALUABLE CARPETS -- WHICH EACH TAKE SEVEN MONTHS TO WEAVE -- WERE STOLEN BY THE SECURITY FORCES. THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT OFFERS COMPENSATION TO KASHMIRIS WHO ARE THE VICTIMS OF WHAT ARE CALLED "CROSSFIRE ATTACKS." HOWEVER, THE RESIDENTS OF KHARAGOM SAY THE COMPENSATION WILL NEVER ADD UP TO WHAT THEY HAVE LOST. (SIGNED) NEB / JLT / WD / WD 19-Jun-99 6:33 AM EDT (1033 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .