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Holi 2023: Terror-Hit Dhangri Village In J&K's Rajouri Skips Holi Celebrations As It Mourns Terror Victims

Seven people were killed in Dhangri village in Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri district in two terrorist acts in January. On January 1, terrorists opened fire and killed five people. The following day, explosives set by the terrorists the previous day exploded and killed two more children.

Family members mourn near mortal remains of civilians in Dhangri area of Rajouri.
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While much of Jammu and Kashmir held Holi celebrations on Tuesday, Dhangri village in Rajouri districts stayed away as it still mourns its terror victims.

The New Year began for Dhangri on a bloody note as terrorists killed seven in two acts of terror. On January 1, terrorists opened fire and killed five people. The next day, improvised explosive devices (IED) put in place the previous day exploded and killed two more.

The Dhangri attacks came as a shock to the Jammu region that had been relatively peaceful in recent years compared to the restive Kashmir Valley. The attacks plunged the region in grief and insecurity and drew parallels with massacres of minority Hindus at the height of terrorism decades back. 

We are still mourning our dead: Dhangri Sarpanch

Dhangri Sarpanch Dheeraj Sharma told PTI that not celebrating Holi, the Hindu festival of colours, was a conscious decision.

He said, "We are still in mourning and have decided to stay away from the Holi celebrations this year."

Sharma said staying away from Holi celebrations was a moral responsibility for every one in the area.

He said, "The entire village stands with the victims' families. The whole village is paying their respect to the killed innocents who included a father-son duo, two minor cousins, two brothers and  an ex-serviceman."

Saroj Bala, who is the only survivor in her house after losing both her sons —Deepak and Prince Sharma— thanked the villagers for standing with her.

She said, "I have lost my sons but the entire village is with me and everyone has extended the best possible help."

Saroj said the attackers are still at large but "I am sure our forces will eliminate them".

Families hit with Rajouri attacks

At least two pair of family members were killed in the twin attacks of January 1-2 in Rajouri's Dhangri village. 

The five persons killed on the January 1 attack are identified as Satish Kumar (45), Deepak Kumar (23), Pritam Lal (57), Shishu Pal (32), and Prince Sharma.  The IED exploded the next day near Pritam's house. Prince is the younger brother of Deepak. 

The two killed in the IED blast on January 2 are identified as Vihan Sharma (04) and Samiksha Sharma (16). The two of them were cousins. The police said the IED was planted under a bag by terrorists after the firing incident on January 1. 

Rajouri attacks a reminder of bloody past

The twin attacks on the New Year's Day in Rajouri's Dhangri village plunged the region's minority Hindus in a wave of insecurity that brought back memories of massacres during the peak of terrorism in J&K

The Dhangri killings resurfaced the memories of Bal Jarallan massacre in 1999. On February 19, 1999, terrorists entered a marriage hall in Bal Jarallan village and killed seven people and injured another seven. All those killed were from the minority community. The village is just four kms from the Dhangri village.

Dalip Singh, a resident of Dhangri, said the latest incident had opened the old wounds and caused a scare among the local populace about the revival of terrorism in the border district. 

"A number of my close relatives had gone to attend the marriage ceremony and we came to know about the incident only when the victims were being evacuated to hospital while passing in front of our homes as there were no mobile phones in J&K at that time," said Singh

Singh said although all his relatives had escaped unhurt in the attack, people from the minority community suffered a big blow as it was the first such attack on minorities in their close vicinity. 

Besides the Bal Jarallan, the other major terror attacks targeted against minorities in Rajouri district in the past include killing of seven persons in Swari village in 1997, killing of five persons in Kotedhara in 1998,  killing of three persons in Nirojal in 2002, killing of five persons in Patrara in 2003 and killing of five persons in Panglar in 2005.

Singh said, "Now this Dhangri attack has not only given a fresh wound but also created a wave of terror among the minority community."

Sanjay Kumar said the Dhangri incident is a cause for major concern as it signals the revival of terror activities in the district after it was declared terrorism free many years ago. 

"The government should take all necessary measures to rebuild the confidence of the people in the security system and track down the attackers to ensure justice to the victims," said Kumar.

How Jammu celebrated Holi

Meanwhile, many temples located near the Line of Control (LoC) in Nowshera sector of Rajouri witnessed a special plantation drive with the forest department encouraging people to plant saplings to safeguard the environment. 

Divisional Forest Officer Nowshera Nilima Shah said the main drive was conducted at Shiv Mandir Thandapani in which a number of devotees and locals planted Rudraksh saplings in the temple premises. 

Number of plants were planted by locals and students to celebrate Holi while plants were also distributed among the locals and students, she said. 

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The temple management lauded the efforts of the forest department for conducting such a drive. 

Similar drives were conducted at various other places including Shiv temple Makol and Lamman temple  in which members of trust and devotees participated, officials said.

"The objective of J-K Green drive is to reach the maximum number of people to encourage them to plant trees," Shah said.

(With PTI inputs)

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