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DATE=3/27/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=KASHMIR KILLINGS -- CONTROVERSY NUMBER=5-46016 BYLINE=JIM TEEPLE DATELINE=SRINIGAR INTERNET=YES CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: One week ago a group of unidentified gunmen entered a quiet village in Indian Kashmir and massacred 35 men. The men who were killed belonged to the minority Sikh community and their murders shocked Kashmir - a region wracked by separatist violence for more than a decade. India's government is blaming the murders on separatist militants and says it has killed at least five of the men who carried out the massacre -- but so far India has yet to present hard evidence backing up its claims. V-O-A correspondent Jim Teeple reports one week after the massacre - there are still questions about who carried it out and why. TEXT: // ACTS OF WAILING WOMEN..EST..AND FADE UNDER TEXT // Women and young girls are all that is left of Faquir Singh's household. Mr. Singh -- his two sons -- and his two grandsons are dead - murdered last week by gunmen who entered the quiet Kashmir village of Chati Singhpura and killed 35 of the village men. Now the women of Chati Singhpura sob all day and all night remembering their men. Faquir Singh's widow, Jeet, says she and her daughters-in-law and her grandchildren are all scared - scared the gunmen might someday return. She says now that most of the men in her family have been killed, she has no idea how her family will survive. // URDU ACTUALITY .EST.. AND FADE UNDER TEXT // Jeet says she and the rest of her family are sure about one thing - they want to leave their ancestral home. Chati Singhpura is one of four Sikh villages, which lie in Kashmir's Mattan district, just off the main north-south highway linking the cities of Jammu and Srinigar. About five thousand Sikhs live in the area -- part of a population of about 50-thousand Sikhs who live in the Kashmir valley. Until last week Sikhs had lived in peace in the valley -- regarded by both separatist militants and the Indian government as a neutral force. Until last week Sikhs had avoided the violence which has left 25-thousand dead over the past ten years in Kashmir. The Muslim-majority territory is claimed by both India and Pakistan. For more than a decade, Islamic guerrillas have been waging a violent struggle to separate Kashmir from the rest of India. /// OPT /// Narinder Singh, a neighbor of Faquir Singh's family, says he also wants to leave Chati Singhpura. Narinder Singh's son, Sartaj was one of the 35-men killed in the massacre. The 70 year-old farmer and retired government worker says no amount of government protection will ever make him and his neighbors feel safe. /// OPT SINGH ACTUALITY /// We are not safe here. If they will provide us with military assistance -- what then - we still have to go to our fields. What protection can the government can give us. We are ready to stay here but what protection are they going to give us. So far no protection has been provided to us. /// END OPT ACT /// The villagers of Chati Singhpura say they know who killed their men -- it was separatist militants they say -- dressed in Indian Army fatigues who entered their village at dusk one week ago. The villagers say the militants divided the men into two groups and shot them at point blank range at opposite ends of the village. Many say the killings were timed to coincide with the visit to India of President Bill Clinton - to embarrass the Indian government. But many in Kashmir's Muslim community say they are suspicious about those accusations. They say because the attackers were dressed in Indian army uniforms they could be linked to counter-insurgency groups active in the area. Umar Farooq is the Mirvaiz, or spiritual leader, of most of Kashmir's Muslim population. Umar Farooq is also one of the leaders of the All Parties Huriyat Conference -- an umbrella grouping of mostly separatist political parties who seek a political solution to the Kashmir crisis. Umar Farooq says he too believes the killings were timed to coincide with the visit of President Clinton to India -- but he says the massacre was carried out to malign the separatist cause. /// FAROOQ ACTUALITY /// We not only feel but we are sure that the massacre in the Mattan district was a deliberate attempt by some agencies who were trying to link Kashmir with terrorism, link Kashmir with violence, link Kashmir with Islamic fanatics. It was most unwanted and it must be noted that whenever we see some development regarding Kashmir, whether it Prime Minister Vajpayee's trip to Lahore, Pakistan when 12 people got massacred in a village near Jammu or President Clinton visit to India -- things happen in Kashmir. /// END ACT /// Security officials in Kashmir scoff at accusations the killings were the work of Indian agencies whose goal was to hurt the cause of Kashmir separatism. They say one eyewitness to the massacre has already identified a local man with ties to separatist guerrillas who allegedly guided the killers through the village. Police say that man was arrested and provided information on the whereabouts of some of the separatists -- five of whom were subsequently killed in a gun battle on Saturday. But questions remain. According to police, nearly 20 militants carried out the massacre at Chati Singhpura and so far only five have been caught and killed. Also the bodies of the five alleged militants killed on Saturday were burned and hastily buried in a nearby village. Security officials say the militants were caught in a burning house during the gun battle, and their bodies were charred beyond recognition. Many in Kashmir are questioning whether the men killed on Saturday were actually involved in the Chati Singhpura killings. So far police have failed to produce any hard evidence that they were -- leaving many in Kashmir to question whether security officials in the troubled region really know who killed the men of Chati Singhpura. (Signed) NEB/JLT/KL 27-Mar-2000 08:46 AM EDT (27-Mar-2000 1346 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .