US president Barack Obama's visit to India sparked-off panic in two minority Sikh villages in Kashmir on Friday night. Fearing a massacre like the one that happened in the year 2000 during the Bill Clinton's visit, two Sikh villages in north and south Kashmir raised alarm on spotting gunmen in uniform in their vicinity.
"Gunmen in uniform knocked doors after disembarking from a Sumo bearing the number plate JKO3A 3077 in our village. We were asked to come out of our houses. We refused to open doors and raised alarm. Hundreds of men, women and children of the community carrying swords, kirpans came out on the Anantnag-Pahalgam road and chased away the gunmen," said a Sikh resident of Hatmulla village, in Anantnag district, 60 km south of Srinagar. He pleaded not to be named.
The police quickly reached the spot and ensured security to the villagers. DIG, south Kashmir, Shafqat Watali said the gunmen were the personnel of the army's 3 Rashtriya Rifles and "apparently had gone in good faith to the village".
The police, however, registered a case and seized the private vehicle used by the army personnel. "Police are verifying the facts…will soon know the motives behind the visit," said Watali. The village does not witness frequent army patrols. An FIR under Section 427,407 of the Ranbir Penal Code has been filed in the Mattan police station.
"We demand identification and punishment for the troopers responsible for the act of intimidation," Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee, Hatmulla, president Sardar Niranjan Singh told a gathering.
In March 2000, 35 Sikhs were massacred by unidentified gunmen, wearing uniform, in Chittisinghpora, in south Kashmir.
Sikhs and separatists smell a rat in the incident. "The uniformed men had come with an intention to repeat Chittisinghpora massacre. They had a plan to kill people. If people hadn't protested they might have even succeeded in their design," alleged Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee, Srinagar, Kuldeep Singh.
In north Kashmir's Upalna village, Sikhs raised alarm in similar fashion after army men were spotted inside the Sikh-majority village, knocking at a door. "The army men visited the hamlet to find some mechanics. They knocked at the doors without knowing the context of their action," said SSP Mansoor Untoo.
The police have decided to increase patrols in all minority villages in Kashmir valley.
"We appeal the members of Sikh community to remain cautious and watchful. We need to ensure that Chittisinghpora is not repeated," said moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
In Srinagar, the police played down the incident. "A misunderstanding got created by a patrol of a security force at Hatmur, Anantnag, on Friday evening. The senior civil and police officers rushed to the spot and the matter was sorted out," said a police spokesman.