Led by Saroj Bala, who lost both her sons – Deepak Kumar and Prince – in militant attacks on January 1 and 2, the protestors initially moved to Muradpur in the morning to hold a sit-in at the Jammu-Rajouri national highway. However, after their attempt to block the road was foiled by a strong contingent of police and CRPF deployed there, they returned to the village and held a dharna at Dangri Chowk, where shopkeepers closed their establishments.
The dharna continued until reports last came in, with Saroj Bala saying that they would not move from there until authorities disclosed the details of those involved in the massacre and apprehended or killed the militants. “We will also bring our cattle to the dharna site at Dangri Chowk on Tuesday,” she added.
She said the militants who killed seven and injured 14 others at Dangri are still alive, adding that there has been no information about those who helped them reach the village and guided them to their houses. Dangri is a Hindu-majority village in the hinterland of Rajouri, and militants, after crossing the LoC from Pakistan, cannot reach there without local help, she pointed out.
This was the second time since June 13 that local residents of Dangri led by Saroj Bala held a dharna in protest against the delay in the investigation. Raising pro-India slogans and holding photographs of the victims, they had earlier held a dharna at Muradpur, blocking the movement of vehicular traffic for nearly eight hours on the Rajouri-Poonch road.
Significantly, the dharna at Dangri Chowk on Monday came five days after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) claimed to have taken into custody two already-jailed overground workers (OGWs) in connection with the January killings of seven civilians at Dangri village.
Already lodged in the central jail at Kot Bhalwal here in connection with a militant attack on an Army truck near Bhata Durian on the Bhimber Gali-Surankote road in Poonch district that killed five soldiers on April 20, Nissar Ahmed and Mushtaq Hussain, both residents of Gursai, allegedly harboured militants involved in Dangri killings also, the NIA said in a statement. It added that it obtained their custody for 12 days from the NIA special court in Jammu.
According to the agency, its investigations revealed that Ahmed and Hussain were involved in harbouring the militants who carried out the killings. They had provided logistical support to the militants for more than two months. They had sheltered them in a hideout they constructed on the directions of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba handlers Saifullah alias Sajid Jutt, Abu Qatal alias Qatal Sindhi and Mohd. Qasim.
A militant suspected to be part of the group involved in the January attack in Dangri was killed by police and security forces on May 7 in the Kandi forests of Rajouri. However, Saroj had denied that the slain militant was the one who killed both her sons.
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Months earlier, on the night of January 1, a militant attack in Dangri village killed five and injured several people. The next morning, two more people died, and many more were injured when an IED, suspected to have been planted by militants at a house in the village the previous night, exploded.
Sources said the IED was planted to target senior police and security forces officers visiting the killing site the next morning.
The NIA took over the case initially registered at the Rajouri police station.
First published on: 05-09-2023 at 10:52 IST
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