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SOURCE: Hindustan Times

The Khajuria family will never forget the nerve-racking moment when three militants forcefully entered their home and held them hostage for nearly two hours.Ishwar Dass Khajuria, the 90-year-old head of the family, said the AK-47 assault rifle-wielding terrorists turned up at their house in Jhajjar Kotli of Jammu’s Reasi district around 8pm on Wednesday.

“They were speaking good Hindi and Punjabi. They spoke like us. They asked us to give them something to eat. We told them that food hadn’t been cooked as yet but we can cook [for them]. They refused and then we gave them three to four packets of biscuit and some apples,” Dass said.

The militants, who escaped after attacking a check-post in Jhajjar Kotli, told the Khajuria family they had come from Pakistan and had not eaten for five days. Dass said the militants were between 20 to 25 years of age and carried backpacks.

They asked the family to give them some clothes and to switch off all the lights but their neighbours had already come to know about their presence. Dass said the militants also asked his eldest son to arrange for a vehicle because they wanted to go to Srinagar but they told them they will not be able to get any as it was late in the night.

“Then they asked us whether there is any mosque in the village and does the village have Muslim families. We said that neither we had any mosque nor do we have Muslim families in this village,” he said.

The militants seized their two mobile phones and demanded a smartphone, saying that the devices were of no use to them.

One of Dass’ daughters-in-law, Geeta Devi, fainted soon after seeing the militants at their house. One of the terrorists checked her pulse and asked the other family members to give her some water to drink, he recalled.

“They talked very nicely to us. They did not abuse any of us and assured us no harm,” said the old man, who retired from the defence services after serving in ammunition depots.

“But, they did threaten us while leaving. They said that if we dared to disclose about them to anyone, we would be killed,” he said.

Sudarshan Khajuria, Dass’ son, said the militants wanted to take his brother Abhishek with them while leaving but the family refused and surprisingly they did not object and disappeared into the jungle.

Raj Kumar of Dhirthi also had a nightmarish experience on Thursday morning when the militants barged into his house around 10am on Thursday. Kumar was working in his fields in front of his house when he saw the militants talking to his wife as they asked her for food.

Kumar somehow conveyed his wife to leave the house along with their three children. Kumar also left his house on the pretext of bringing food and called up the village numberdar Balwant Singh.

“By then security forces had reached Kumar’s house and an intense gun-fight ensued in which one of the three militants was killed,” Singh said showing the pockmarked walls of Kumar’s house.

Another family in the Kumar’s neighbourhood had to hide under a cot inside their house as the shootout between the militants and security forces started. Ravi Kumar and his wife Ritu Devi with their two daughters, aged four months and four years respectively, could not come out of their house till 5pm when the operation was declared over.

All the militants were killed after the shootout.