Monthly Archives: October 2019

The Gool Massacre of Kashmiri Pandits

My Father Mr. Ashok Kumar Raina S/o Shivji Raina, native from Sopore(Baramulla Distt) was a great educationist, superb human being and a very loving father. As a person, he was very simple, down to earth, honest, tolerant, brave and very caring, He was M.Sc Physics (Electronics Hons.) from Agra Unversity. At a very young age of 23yrs, he was appointed as a Physics lecturer in Jr.College. He was very happy, the way his career was shaping. Routine transfers and new academic approaches were keeping his life busy. He was a responsible family man and created a nice balance between his personal and professional life.

In 1988, militancy had sneaked in our beautiful Kashap Land “Kashir”. There was Islamic terror spreading at a very fast pace and their motive was to spread hate, horror and scare in minorities particularly Kashmiri Pandits. Militants wanted to establish Nizama Mustafa. They started harassing and killing Kashmiri Pandits and also targetting Army and Airforce officials. Our Pro India sentiment was always mocked and crushed. In 1989 -90 under the sinister plan of ethnic cleansing, lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits were driven out from there homeland Kashmir. I remember me and my sister was sleeping and my father came and told us to get ready as we are leaving Kashmir. We got few suitcases ready and with the help of some local friends my father arranged Minibus for our family (me, my sister, my grandparents, my mother and father) left for Udhampur. I was 11 yrs old and my sister was 14 yrs. On the way, we saw thousands of KPs in trucks, cars, buses heading towards Jammu. My father told us that we are moving out of Kashmir because it is not the safe place for our community now, once things normalise we will come back, right now it is better to stay away from Kashmir.

It was a mass exodus and it was very painful. This was the story of every Kashmiri Pandit. We became migrants in our own country. We took refuge in Udhampur. The life of hardship and struggle started but in my heart, I was sure that we will see a better life as I considered my parents as heroes and knew that they will make it better for us. Every day I used to see the pain and agony in my grandparents and my parent’s eyes. Our usual schools started and we started adapting to different culture and climate.

Finally a good news after a long time, in Aug 1991 my father got promoted to the post of principal Hr. Sec School. It was a great achievement and a sense of pride for all of us that at 42yrs, he was given such a huge responsibility. At this age, he already had 21yrs of lecturership experience and that itself was a big achievement. Being a young officer he was posted to Kargil(Ladakh), one of the toughest location in India. He served in Kargil from 1991 – 1994. We always used to wait for winters when my father used to come back home, those days used to be the best days. He used to bring a variety of dry fruits and the famous and best one was kubani ( apricot). We used to eat lot of them

Meanwhile, during this time we shifted from Udhampur to Jammu. In 1994 my father completed his serving tenure of 3 yrs in Kargil and he was transferred to Jammu.
Along with my father, 14 other people were transferred back to Jammu. Almost all of them were adjusted in Jammu ; except my father .

He was given the new appointment, he was transferred to Gool (Ramban). There is a norm in J&K Govt who so ever serves in Ladakh for 3 yrs is given an easy and posting of his choice option. My father has already served in Ladakh for 3 yrs and he was transferred to Gool which was also a very tough posting. My father personally met with then education minister and highlighted this issue, but he told my father you are a very young and dynamic officer and you have to go.
My father was denied the fundamental right of posting of choice by the Minister. By rules, he was not entitled to have back to back tough postings. The only fault of his was that he was young. A criminality happened there by flaunting the said norms. My Grandfather told him not to go but my father was very dedicated to his work and finally, he joined at Gool.
Gool was basically a hilly terrain and there were traces of militancy in and around that area. Gool as an area was influenced by Hizbul Mujaheedin Group. My father started his work and started spreading education in that area. There were young Kashmiri Pandit lectures working with him. I remember in some seasons ,all of them had to walk more than 30 km to reach Gool. I have seen bruises and burns on my father’s feet, he was a tough and strong man, he never bothered and moved on.

The darkest day of our lives was just around the corner. My father had come for summer holidays, it was 14th June 1997, the next day my father was leaving for Gool.
In the evening, I and he took my grandmother to an optician and then we went to Shiv Mandir in Jammu. I had chat with my father on loads of topics and we came back home. Ravinderji and Sushilji came to our place to discuss with my father, the travel schedule for tomorrow, as all 3 of them were going back to Gool.

Next Day morning on 15 June 1997 my father left for Gool, it was very early in the morning I was fast asleep. I told my mother why didn’t you wake me up as I wanted to say Goodbye to him. I never knew that I will never be able to say Goodbye to my father. Next day morning me, my mother and my grandmother were sleeping .At around 4 am , bell rang and my mom opened the door .There were few police officers who told us that the bus my father was travelling in was attacked by militants and several people are injured. Me and my mother rushed to my uncle and my uncle went with them. At around 7 am it was across all the newspapers that 3 Kps were killed by militants in Gool. I lost my senses and the day was a long walk of sorrow and grief. Our family was devasted and shattered. In the evening the dead body came, thousands of people were outside our house. we saw him for the last time, I kissed his forehead and finally said goodbye. My sister was holding me and crying. Everyone was crying and my mind had stopped working. I remember even after taking 11 bullets his face looked calm, his body felt soft. At around 10:30 pm all the 3 martyrs were laid to rest in the flames of celestial bliss, OM Shanti. It was the death of humanity.

According to some eyewitness
The bus in which they were travelling was stopped by men in army uniform, 7 Kms from Gool. All Hindus were asked to step down. By then it was clear that they were not security forces but Islamic terrorists. There was some resistance from Muslim passengers, seeing this, terrorist said they are not going to harm them, their commander only wants to talk to them, they even swear by their Prophet and Holy book. 6 Hindus ( 4 KP’s and 2 Jammuites) were taken out of which 2 people escaped one by jumping off the cliff and other by running up a hill. The remaining 4 were made to walk 30 metres near the nullah and 3 Kashmiri Pandits were fired upon by terrorists and martyred and the 4th ( Jammunite ) was allowed to go. The Message was clear. KP’s are the target.

– Shri. Ashok Kumar Raina – Principal
– Shri. Ravindra Kabu – Lecturer
– Shri. Sushil Pandita – Sr.Teacher

So it was a planned targeted killing. He was killed because he was a Kashmiri Pandit. He was killed because he was doing his duty with utmost sincerity and honesty. He was killed because he was the symbol of Kashmir Pandit growth. This heinous crime was executed by Billu Gujjar of Hizbul Mujahideen and Amanullah Gujjar Group. A couple of months later he was killed by Security Forces.

It took me longtime time to understand that my mentor, my hero, my inspiration, my father, was not there with me anymore. I am sure he is watching me from the skies and keeps on blessing us ..Luv you and miss you always ..

By- Vikas Raina

Indrahaar Pass Trek-A detailed travelogue


I have a strange, alluring fascination for the Mountains. Since, I was born in the Kashmir valley, being surrounded by the Mountains gives me a feeling of Nostalgia and the much cherished memories of good old times once again get refreshed. I find excuses to be near them.

When the topic of Trekking to Himalayas popped up between Sunil Raina and me, I was more than willing to organise the Trek. After much deliberation, we decided to undertake the Indrahaar Trek.

Since, we had planned this Trek much in advance, we took the services of An Adventure company-Adventure Nation for this 4 day 3 night Trek. Sunil Raina, Ajay Chauhan and Parvesh Ranga were my trek mates.

We were supposed to report at Shiv Shakti Guesthouse, Dharamkot, Macleondgang by 10 am on 8th Oct 2019.

Ajay and Parvesh-The experienced Trekkers, had reached the Guesthouse early morning. By the time, I and Sunil joined them by around 10 in the morning, They were almost ready.

Since this was an arduous and long Trek, Hence A guide was allotted to us. He was a young lad named Rohit and was supposed to accompany us till the Indrahaar pass. Packed meals were given to us before we left for our first halt- Mana.

There was another young – Students –group, aged 18-19 years, hailing from Kerala . They were six in number, 5 boys and one Girl. They had opted for the Laka Glacier trek. That meant, they too had to follow the same route as ours till Laka Got-The high altitude meadow. This meadow acts like a base camp for both the Laka Glacier as well as the Indrahaar pass.

We left the Guesthouse by around 11 am. All the four of us were carrying Haversacks on our backs as well as foldable walking/Trekking Sticks . Sunil’s Haversack was the lightest and might have weighed around 10 kg. The heaviest bags were those of Ajay and mine. Both weighed above 15kgs.

En route, At Dharamkot market , we had some snacks in a local restaurant . From this place onwards, the actual trek began. We soon reached the BhagsuNag falls. We clicked some pictures there. From this point onwards, the actual ascend started.

Rohit was leading us through the narrow footpath that would lead us to our next destination-Mana. Almost, all the route from Dharamkot till Indrahaar pass is stony. We rested briefly at some unnamed stretches. There was not much communication amongst us, as we were gasping because of the steep climb and the load we were carrying on our Backs.

Every half an hour, we would sip in some water to compensate the water loss due to excessive sweating.

After around 2 hours, we reached a small meadow, that housed few Gaddis-the local shepherds. The whole group , including the four of us and the 6 young students rested at this place for around half an hour. They too had a Guide with them and his name was Sansaar.

At this very small Meadow, we had our packed meals that consisted of some sandwiches , refreshment drinks and a Choclate.

After the small meal,Sunil accosted some of the students out of curiosity!

‘Hi ! how are you? Where do you hail from?’ asked Sunil to one guy from that group.

‘ I am Vishnu. We are all from IIT Dhanbad and our native place is Kerala’, the young boy politely replied. He introduced his group to us as Jefferson, Chandra and the Girl as livia.

Soon,We again resumed our trek.

Occasionally, I would ask Rohit, ‘How far we have to go?’, He would point out his finger to a distant cliff and with a smile, reply, ‘ we have to reach that point Sir.’

It used to be an ambiguous reply, but I would nod my head as if I have understood.

Finally, we reached a cliff after an hour or so. The views from that cliff were stupendous. We put down our heavy haversacks from our shoulders and took some photos with different poses. we had some biscuits too. After spending some 20 minutes at this point, we again resumed our journey.

However, it was a 10-15 minutes descend .

we finally reached Mana- A beautiful hamlet with few Gaddi houses.A small ground/meadow was going to be the place for our first night halt. We had to stay at this place in tents .

Sunil and I stayed in one tent while Ajay and parvesh in another tent. This place is very scenic and the mighty Dauladhars stand tall and gives an impression of an amphitheater.

I took many pictures at this place, whereas, Ajay and parvesh took some videos too.

Goddess Mana-The Shakti incarnate, is the deity of this small hamlet. The temple dedicated to this Goddess was hardly 200 mts from our camp. I and Sunil decided to pay our Obeisance to her.

The temple is situated at the edge of the cliff. From that point, we could see the abrupt twinkling lights somewhere down in the plains.

It was the Dusshera Night .
Those sparkling lights in the distant Horizon were the fireworks associated with The annual celebration of burning Ravana and his Bother.

Soon it was dark.

We switched on our Head-torches and quickly ambled towards our camp . There is no electricity access at this place and Hence ,The camp staff had made an early dinner for us. I , sunil and parvesh had Rice, Daal(lentils) and Mattar-paneer for our dinner while as Ajay had Chicken.

The camp Organisers gave a couple of Blankets to each of us . we soon retired to our tents for the night as nothing much could be done outside. We used our headlights inside the tent for light.

By 9 Pm, all of us must have slept.

The app showed that we had travelled 10.12 kms with 15,526 steps on 8th Oct. The altimeter showed an altitude of 2400 mts.

Next day, Early Morning , Ajay greeted me loudly from outside my tent.
Good morning sandeep ji ! Are you coming out of your tent or not!’
I zipped up the Tent zipper , peeped through the tent, and greeted back, ‘ Good morning Ajay ji! I am just coming out.’

A cool breeze greeted me outside . I could see some clouds too.

In the morning, we were served a Breakfast of puri-aalo.

Since,We had to leave by 8 in the morning hence, We packed our Haversacks quickly and were ready to go for our next destination-Laka Got.

Rohit was again leading us. After some 45 minutes, we halted at a shop en route and each of us had a cup of tea. For Another 1 hour, we gently ascended and finally reached Truind-A beautiful small meadow situated at an altitude of around 2900mts MSL. It offers a majestic view of both the plains as well as the Dauladhar.

We rested there for half an hour and had some light snacks at this point .We also took some photographs and videos .

Just after crossing Truind, the footpaths became more narrow, tortuous and rocky. The clouds had started to besiege the Mountains and soon it started to Drizzle. We stopped at a small temple known as Tiranga mata . we pulled up the rain coat from the Haversacks , wore it quickly, to prevent us from getting wet and resumed our journey.

The student group was not prepared for this sudden change of weather .

Soon, We left them far behind, as we were unaffected by the rains. The rain however, had put breaks on our speed as the path had become wet and slippery.

We passed through a small café by the name- ‘snowline’ . However, we did not stop there. A small pond just adjacent to this café served as a point of another photo -shoot for us. We clicked some more photos at this point. From snowline café, the elevation of the slope was more or less the same. However, the terrain had become more rocky and at some points more slushy.

Another 45 minutes or so, we reached our next destination –Laka Got. This meadow was going to be our halt station for next 2 nights. By the time, we reached Laka, the rain had stopped.
I looked at my watch. It was 5 P.M.

Some tea was served to us on our arrival. However, that did not help me much as I was feeling some side-effects of High altitude. I had a mild Headache and my nose was running. I have experienced these symptoms earlier too; whenever I am at places , that have an altitude of 10000 feet or more. Parvesh too was feeling the same symptoms. Sunil and Ajay too had some symptoms associated with High altitude.

Meanwhile, Rohit and his associates erected tents for us .

The surface at the campsite was uneven. Ajay-who is an Professor of Geography – explained the reason for the uneven surface. He told me that the places where there is a thermo frost, these small uneven patches are formed and it is a natural Phenomenon.

The camp site too looked like a high altitude pass. A deep valley-hardly 15 mts away from our camps-was resounding with chilling winds. Nevertheless, we did click some more pictures at that point too. Strangely, the place, where our tents were erected was bereft of the Chilling winds !

By 6.30 P.M, we were already in our respective tents. Sunil was my tent-mate at Laka too. Since, It was very cold outside, hence ,The Dinner was served to us in our tents .

The dinner consisted of Semi-Cooked rice and Daal. When I asked Rohit, why was the Rice semi-cooked, he replied that the Gas cylinder has been totally exhausted, and they didn’t have a spare one. Hence, they had to make the dinner by burning some twigs and wooden logs!

The Dinner was awful! But there was no alternative and hence we had to eat it.

After Dinner, we again came out of our tents. I asked Ajay casually, ‘what do you think! How will be the weather tomorrow?’
‘if the weather will be clear, then only we will go to Indrahaar, Otherwise, we will explore the places near to our campsite’ He opined.

By 7.30 Pm, I was again in my camp. I was tired because of the long hike. Sunil too was much exhausted and had muscle spasms. It didn’t look as if he was ready for the arduous trek, that we had to undertake the next day.

‘let us go back to Mcleondgang tomorrow’, He pleaded, supinely lying inside his sleeping Bag.

‘if the weather will be hostile, we won’t go to Indrahaar. And if it will be Sunny, and you don’t feel better till morning, you stay put at this camp, while we will go to the pass’, I tried to comfort him.

Soon , we both fell asleep. I woke up in the night as I was feeling nauseatic, However, I did not vomit . I had a sip of water and again pretended to be sleeping. The uneven surface was hurting my back; but still I was able to catch some intermittent sleep.

The app showed that we had walked 21,011 steps and covered a distance of 13.43 kms.The Altmeter was showing a height of 3200 mts aboveMSL.

Next day, 10th Oct,We woke up at 6 in the morning. A bright Sunshine greeted us all.
I asked Sunil, ‘How are you feeling today? Will you come with us?’
‘Oh yes! That is for what I have come here.’ He answered cheerfully.

At around 7.30 am, we had our awful Breakfast of puri-Aalu(again).

It was told to us that from Laka to Indrahaar pass, we would be given an extra Guide apart from Rohit. But that did not happen. Instead, Rohit was attached to the student group, while as their Guide-Sansaar -was given to us.

Anyways,We started at around 8.20 am towards the Indrahaar pass.

After around 45 minutes or so, we reached at Laka Glacier. A small stream flows downwards from beneath the Long Glacier. We filled our water bottles and clicked some photos.
From this Glacier, The ascend started.

‘where is the pass?’, I asked Sansaar. He pointed his finger at the top of the Mountain,
‘ There sir. We have to reach at that top’, he Replied.

It looked like a steep vertical ascend.

We plodded on the rough stony trek. Even at this point, we were feeling some effects of the rough terrain as well as the side effects of High Altitute . I was gasping ,so were my trek mates. From the glacier, it took some more time, before we reached a point known as ‘Lahesh caves’. It is a natural cave and definitely a place to visit. We all halted there briefly. The warmth of the Bright sun was soothing.

Two Gaddi Dogs had followed us throughout the trek from Laka. Whenever, we stopped for a light snacks break, we would give them something to eat too. These Gaddi dogs are extremely friendly and it seemed, they really like the company of men. The dog was Black in color and we named him ‘Kaalu’. The Bitch was named ‘Rani’. She was our constant companion up till the pass and back. It looked as if, they had come to the pass earlier too as they knew the way up to the pass and even led us at some blind curves.

From lahesh caves till the top of the Pass; at many stretches some stairs/steps have been made by the local Gaddis-The shepherds. Building Stairs/steps at this rough terrain and at such an altitude is nothing less than a wonder!

Some Trekkers and Hikers have done a yoeman’s job by placing cairn guidance all along the route; right from Laka Got/ Illaka up to the Indrahaar pass. At many points, They have painted a red arrow mark on the Boulders too, to clearly define the route. These cairn guidance and arrows are of a great help to the new trekkers. And a boon to solo Trekkers.

The path further up was becoming more steeper as well as stony. After 3600 mts above MSL, I again felt nauseated and the intensity of my Headache increased with the increased Altitude. At around 3800 mts above MSL, the snow patches seemed more prominent to the landscape with many white snowy patches. we were now walking on the fresh slippery snow.

At around 4000mts above MSL, Sunil revolted. He wanted to go back . Ajay too wanted to go Back . He was apprehensive and doubted whether we will be able to climb down safely, as we had no ropes and ice-Axes with us. Even though, I and parvesh too were suffering from the high altitude sickness, still we insisted that we should climb up to the summit, Because we had come so far and were so near to it.

Sunil and Ajay had to give in, even though Halfheartedly.

The snow from 4100mts and above was anywhere between 10 cm to one feet.
From 4200mts up to the pass, it is almost a vertical height. There was less trekking and more intermittent Rock climbing involved . We were slowly and cautiously climbing up.

All the drinking water was exhausted. However, We had filled fresh snow in our bottles and sipped it whenever we felt thirsty.

At around 1.45 Pm, we reached the top of the pass.

A sort-of-open-shrine dedicated to lord Indra is made at the top of the Pass by the Gaddis. Many tridents are installed at this small shrine. The local Shepherds-The Gaddis revere this place and this pass is used by them to cross over to Chamba. The height of this pass is around 4300 mts above MSL. Some most beautiful vistas can be seem from this pass.
We clicked some photos and made some quick videos. Sunil even recited the IndrakshiStrotam at the Holy site. We stayed there for hardly 20 minutes. It had started to snow again and we knew, it would be dangerous to stay there.

We started our descend.

It was not easy to Descend. The trial had become very slippery. Sansaar was clearing the path so that we had a safe descend. With some difficulty, we climbed down the initial dangerous descend of 200 mts. After that, even though, it was slippery, but not as dangerous.

The sleet followed us during our first hour of descend. All of us, except parvesh had a fall on this slippery path. The Health condition was getting better as we descended. During the descend, Parvesh was the most active and would run downwards, wait there for us ,and shoot videos.

It was anticipated by Sansaar, that we will reach Laka Got by 6 PM-When still there will be some sunlight. But that did not happen. After laka Glacier, It turned dark but that didn’t affect us in any ways. We were prepared and all of us were carrying Head torches with us. The stretch from the laka glacier onward was covered by us by switching on our Head torches. By 7 or 7.30 Pm, we reached our camp at laka Got. Warm water followed by warm tea was served to us immediately.

By 8.00 Pm, Dinner consisting of dal, aalu, Rice and chappati was served to us.

By 8.30 PM, We all were in our sleeping Bags.
The app showed that we had walked 20,876 steps and covered a distance of 13.35 kms.

Next day, 11th Oct, we woke up at around 6 a.m. After having our Breakfast of Aalu-Paranthas, we started our descend. It was again a bright sunny day and we were feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. The descend to the Truind was rather very fast. We stopped at this place for some time and took a different route to descend(not Bhagsu falls).

The Downward , well defined trek was broader and many Indian and international tourists were trekking up towards Truind.

We reached back to the Shiv-Shakti Guest House by 3 Pm. The bath with the warm water at the Guest house was so refreshing.
At around 4.15 pm, we had a proper tasty lunch after 3 days.

I along with sunil left that palce at 4.45 pm for our respective homes. Ajay and Parvesh had booked a ticket for the Bus to Chandigarh and were supposed to leave by 8 pm.

The app showed that we had walked 29,437 steps and covered a distance of 20.08 Kms.

We are very thankful to Sansaar-our guide. He behaved very politely as well as responsibly throughout the trek. Without him, we could not have made it to the pass as a team.

However, We feel cheated by Adventure Nation, as we did not get , what we were told. They did not even follow , what they had given us in writing.

Anyways,

This trek no doubt, challenges the physical and mental strength. It makes one realize the strength and weaknesses of both Body and mind. And how the willpower pervades both of them. It Highlights the hidden strength within and promotes team spirit and camaraderie.

This is not an easy Trek. I would rather rate it between moderate to difficult. The whole trek is no doubt beautiful, and if time and body permits, the seekers of adventure and trekking must undertake this journey.

I promise, They won’t regret it.