Kaluchak massacre: Victims forgotten five years on

By Binoo Joshi, Indo-Asian News Service

Kaluchak, (Jammu and Kashmir) : The cantonment town of Kaluchak in Jammu and Kashmir reverberated with deafening grenade explosions and gunfire exactly five years ago on May 14, 2002, leaving nearly 40 soldiers, their wives and children dead.

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But the terror attack that had shocked the entire nation has been almost erased from the collective memory of the local residents of Kaluchak, 13 km from Jammu, and the leaders who had promised “immediate action”.

Its business as usual five years with no thought for the martyred soldiers and their families. The suicide attack by terrorists, who were suspected to have come from Pakistan, on the Indian Army cantonment’s residential quarters, killing women and children, is not even listed on the calendar as a day to remember the dead.

The families of the massacre victims have since shifted to other locations.

The attack that killed families of soldiers who were out on duty guarding the India-Pakistan border had then defence minister George Fernandes declaring, “the perpetrators of the crime will have to pay a price”.

This had also brought India and Pakistan close to full-fledged war. S. Padmanabhan, who was army chief at the time, had said: “It is time for action.”

War seemed days away as then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee promised a “decisive victory”.

But Somnath, who runs a teashop opposite the cantonment’s residential quarters here, is aghast at the collective amnesia of the people around him.”No one remembers what happened on that day, nor is there any will to observe the day.

“I believe all of us have lost our sense of history,” Somnath told IANS.

Somnath, who had heard the screams of dying children and lifted their bodies on the day of the terror, says if such a huge and gruesome attack did not make a difference, then what else will.

That Black Thursday is etched on his mind with “blood all around”, and dreadful sound of ricocheting of guns and grenade explosions. At one point of time, he had demanded firearms from an army commander to take on the killers only to be told that it was not his job.

It takes a lot of effort to suppress Somnath’s rage.

“Why has everyone forgotten Kaluchak?” he asks and speaks for many in Jammu, where time has often been punctuated by terrorist strikes in a state where violence and unannounced killings have become a daily fact of life for close to two decades.