By Khushdeep Kaur Malhotra | ThePrint | KASHMIR |
Hidden amongst lush apple orchards, the village is hard to find, except for a yellow banner marking its entrance. It will replace one that lay in tatters until recently. It is the first of many reminders in this living memorial, “shadeedan da pind” (village of the martyred), as it has come to be known.
Although 20 years have passed, and efforts to keep Chitti Singhpora alive in the public memory continue, people’s own willingness to remember tells a different story.
“They are just forgetting it, they are trying to forget it,” lamented 25-year old Baani over the phone. For Baani (not her real name), whose father was one of those massacred, March is a difficult month in the village, not only because most of the families are away in their winter homes in Jammu, but also because to her it feels like people have moved on.
At the commemoration ceremony in 2019, attended by less than a few hundred local people, she showed me the inside of Gurudwara Samundri Hall where the last rites of the ‘martyrs’ — as the village remembers them — were performed. “Kutte bathroom karde si ethe (dogs would relieve themselves here),” she said, informing me that the place was only recently fenced after family members of the deceased protested the desecration of a space that has become sacred to them.
For three years now, I have been in continuous conversation with the men and women, old and young, who do this labour of remembering. While media, researchers like myself, guests curious to know its history, and even anniversaries come and go, answers to what happened and why remain elusive. So does the hope that these answers will ever come.
While Chitti Singhpora has seen ‘development’ after the massacre, as many of the local people often remark, Darbara Singh (name changed), a petite man with huge brown eyes and a heart to match, asks me, “Tussi mainu dasso, roadan ta ban hi janiya si, par sadde Daddy da jawab kaun dega? (you tell me, roads would have been made anyway, but who will answer for our father’s death?)”.
The author is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University. Views are personal.
Read the full story, ‘Kashmir’s Chitti Singhpora struggles between remembering and forgetting a 20-yr-old massacre’ (ThePrint, 20 March 2020), here