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HindustanTimes Fri,29 Aug 2014

J&K Assembly attack survivors recount terror
Agence France-Presse, PTI
Srinagar, October 01, 2002
First Published: 22:00 IST(1/10/2002)
Last Updated: 22:24 IST(1/10/2002)

One year on, survivors of a massive attack on Jammu and Kashmir's legislature say they are still haunted by the bodies and debris from the raid that killed 38 people.

"It is an ugly memory that still haunts me," said Farooq Ahmed, 35, who owns a general store near the high-security river-side assembly in Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar.

"The explosion smashed the window panes and there were cracking sounds all over," said Ahmed, who rushed out of his shop to see his 55-year-old uncle lying in a pool of blood. "Though I was bleeding myself I managed to push my uncle into a vehicle which took us to hospital," he said.

India blamed the attack on Jaish-e-Mohammad, a pan-Islamic movement with ties to Pakistan. The assault, in the wake of September 11 in the United States, sparked calls in India for tough action against Pakistan, such as bombing alleged terrorist camps across the de facto border that divides Kashmir.

Jammu and Kashmir's Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, breaking down in tears as the assembly reconvened two days later, said "the time has come to wage a war against Pakistan."

Relations with Pakistan deteriorated even further two months later, when the Parliament was attacked by gunmen, New Delhi said were members of the Jaish-e-Mohammad and a group with a similar ideology, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba.

The two groups were banned by Islamabad in January, after India and Pakistan deployed hundreds of thousands of troops along their shared borders in a standoff New Delhi says it will not ease until Pakistan stops support for militants in its zone of Jammu and Kashmir.

In the Srinagar attack, one terrorist drove a jeep to the tightly guarded assembly complex and blew it up. In the confusion, other gunmen broke into the legislature, where proceedings had ended only two hours before.

In the explosion and the gunbattle inside the complex, some 38 people were killed, including the five terrortists.

The speaker of the state assembly and several other lawmakers were inside the complex.
Security at the legislature has since been tightened even further. "We have taken adequate security measures for this year," says K. Rajindera Kumar, inspector general of police, who personally led the rescue operation last year.

"I will never forget that day," said Sheikh Abdul Rehman, a legislator who was trapped inside the assembly and rescued by the police.  "It was a day when death was dancing on all the sides," he said,

Wasim Ahmed, 22, who sells cigrettes just 30 meters (yards) away from the legislature building, said he ran as soon as he heard the explosion. "I didn't care for my shop. I just fled for my life," he said. When he returned, the entire 50-meter (-yard) road to the legislature was splattered with blood, smashed glass and burning vehicles.

"I could see a man whose leg was blown up by the explosion, and nervous policemen trying to remove him from the scene amid firing," he said.

Mohammad Siddique, who owns a cosmetics and readymade garments shop in the area, said for a second he had thought the area has been bombarded. "I had never heard the explosion of such an intensity before," said Siddique.

"It (the explosion) not only shook the entire area but set off fires and killed more than a dozen people on the spot." "Once I stepped out of my smashed shop I could find charred bodies lying on the road with many of the injured calling for help," he said, adding no one initially dared to venture into the blast site to remove the wounded.

"It was a black day in my life, and it will continue to remain so." 


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