It’s been 13 years now since the massacre of 35 members of Kashmir’s Sikh community in Chittisinghpora village of Anantnag district. And it is nothing but a travesty that the victims of the massacre are still waiting for justice. On 25 March 2000, more than a dozen gunmen, dressed in army uniforms, forcibly lined up dozens of Sikhs in Chhattisinghpora and killed 35 of them, not to talk of the many left injured and scarred for life. As if this were not enough of a tragedy, five days later, in Pathribal, the army claimed to have killed ‘five foreign terrorists responsible for the killings in Chhattisinghpora’. The five men turned out to be innocent civilians. After more than a decade the victims and survivors of both Chhattisinghpora and Pathribal continue to wait for justice.
Much remains shrouded in case of Chhattisinghpora. In August 2011, a Delhi court acquitted Mohammad Suhail and Waseem Ahmed, alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba militants, of the charge of involvement in the massacre. Pathribal on the other hand has thrown up a familiar story of fake encounters at the hands of government forces in gross human rights violations. The CBI, India’s top investigation agency, made some damning statements after investigating the Pathribal fake encounter case saying that the killings were a “cold-blooded murder” and that those responsible “deserve to be meted out exemplary punishment”.
While Pathribal is a familiar story of gross human rights violations at the hands of government forces in Kashmir and the extraordinary impunity given to them, Chhattisinghpora, worse, could point at a lack of will of the government to get to the bottom of the matter
All that we have however at this stage is the army looking into a matter where its own men stand accused. This, after the Indian Supreme Court gave the army an option to choose how it wanted the officers accused of the Pathribal fake encounter to be tried. The army could either opt for a court-martial or allow regular criminal courts to carry on with the prosecution proceedings. The army decided to take over the case from the magistrate and conduct its own enquiry. Earlier this month, 10 civilian witnesses deposed before an Army court in connection with court martial trial of five Army officers accused of stage-managing the Pathribal fake encounter.
While the Pathribal fake encounter case is a familiar story of gross human rights violations at the hands of government forces in Kashmir and the extraordinary impunity given to it by the government, Chhattisinghpora has only proved yet again the incompetence of the administration. Worse, it could point at the lack of will of the government to get to the bottom of the matter.