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Advani lambastes Bukhari's charge, promises Sikhs security

Advani lambastes Bukhari's charge, promises Sikhs security

Onkar Singh
Rediff on Net
March 27, 2000
Title: Advani lambastes Bukhari's charge, promises Sikhs security
Author: Onkar Singh
Publication: Rediff on Net
Date: March 27, 2000

Union Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani, who visited Chatti Singhpora village in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday, has termed the allegation of Jama Masjid imam Abdullah Bukhari "absolute rubbish".

"We all know that Bukhari has been taking a pro-Pakistan stand. I can tell you that government agencies had no hand in the killing of innocent Sikhs," Advani asserted.

Advani pointed out that in one of their swiftest reactions, security forces had already gunned down five foreign mercenaries who had taken part in the March 20 massacre.

"Security forces are continuing their operations against the terrorists. We are determined to nab the culprits. We have identified that Lashkar-e-Toiba and Harkat-ul-Ansar, two pro-Pakistan outfits, were involved in this massacre. This has been confirmed by a militant arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir police," Advani told rediff.com on his return to Delhi.

Bukhari, while addressing a congregation of Sikhs at Gurdwara Bangla Sahib in Delhi on Saturday, had alleged that the Chatti Singhpora massacre had been engineered by Indian government agencies.

Talking about the security measures the government proposes to take to restore the confidence of the Sikhs, Advani admitted that the residents of Chatti Singhpora were unwilling to form village defence committees.

"I went over to the village and spoke to the people. I must admit that so far there is no response to the government offer to form village defence committees. I am hopeful that the villagers will soon see reason and agree to form the committees," he said.

Asked why the government could not enlist ex-servicemen to protect citizens in Kashmir if the security forces are tied up with other important tasks, Advani said the government was willing to consider any suggestion that could offer a solution. "Most of the villagers are ex-servicemen and they should come forward to protect others," he pleaded.

Asked why he took so long to visit the village when he should have been the first to go there, Advani said, "I am aware of the feelings of the Sikh community and I did want to go there earlier. But since US President Bill Clinton was here, I could not find the time. In any case, our priority was to take swift action and nab the culprits. Five of the 17 who took part in the massacre have been killed. We will take care of the rest as well," he promised.

He said the two-pronged strategy adopted by the Centre to tackle the militancy in Kashmir is paying rich dividends. "We are fighting the militants in the valley and Pakistan internationally. We have already started strengthening the security system in 150 villages in the valley where the Sikhs are in the majority. There are some among the villagers who feel they should migrate, but others feel they should continue to live in the valley. The government will do everything to ensure that Sikhs from the valley do not migrate."

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