Srinagar: A day after Army closed the infamous Pathribal fake encounter case saying it has found no evidence against its accused officers, the families of victims Friday said the development has not surprised them given the fate of court martials in Kashmir.
“Army conducted the court martial to shield its officers. We never had faith in their institution. We never expected that justice will be delivered to us,” said Abdul Rashid Khan, whose father, Jumma Khan, was among the five people killed by Army and later passed off as foreign militants on March 25, 2000, five days after the massacre of 35 members of Sikh community by unidentified gunmen in Chittisinghpora.
In 2006, the CBI indicted Brig Ajay Saxena, Lt. Col. Brajendra Pratap Singh, Maj. Sourabh Sharma, Maj. Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan (all belonging to 7 Rashtriya Rifles) for gunning down the five villagers and dubbing them as foreign militants before the media.
In its chargesheet, the CBI had said the killing of innocents was a “result of tremendous psychological pressure on the Army unit to show results” after the killing of Sikhs.
The families of the victims had initially attended the court martial hearings, according to Rashid, “only to prevent Army from making excuses and false claims over the case.” But by denying justice to the victims, “Army has shown the real face of democracy to the world,” Rashid told Kashmir Reader.
On Thursday, an Army spokesman in a statement issued in Jammu had announced the closure of the case saying evidence recorded by it clearly established that it was a joint operation of Army and police.
“Consequent to CBI investigation and order of Supreme Court in March 2012, Army had taken over the Pathribal encounter case from the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Srinagar in June 2012. A comprehensive and exhaustive effort was undertaken to record evidence against all the accused,” the statement said.
It said that over 50 witnesses were examined “including a large number of civilians,” state government and police officials. “Forensic, documentary and other relevant evidence has also been taken on record. For the convenience of the next of kin of the deceased and other civilian witnesses, the team recording the evidence moved to the Valley to record their statements,” it added
Lauding the civil administration, the Army spokesman said that “no prima-facie case was established against any of the accused.”
But Rashid rejected the Army statement. He said, “We always had apprehensions that the court martial will not be free and fair. We attended the hearing because Army would have shifted the blame at us. Honestly speaking, we never had a hope that justice will be delivered.”
At the court martial proceedings, he said, the families told the Army officers how the soldiers lifted their kin in dead of the night only to be killed in a fake encounter. Even the CBI, Rashid said, came to the conclusion that the five civilians were innocents and were killed by Army in the fake encounter.
“Now, after 14 years, Army expects my 100 year-old mother to identify the soldiers who took my aged father and later killed him. This is absurd. Why can’t Army identify their men who killed innocent civilians,” Rashid said.
“Those soldiers, who killed my father and four other men, should repeat the history and kill me and my family as well. After all, who has punished them for killing innocents? Justice is never possible in the prevailing situation of lawlessness,” he added.
Like Rashid, Shakoor, son of Jumma Khan’s namesake, is also disappointed over the outcome of the court martial. He said justice will always remain elusive for the victims.
“Right from day one, we had doubt over the so-called court marital ordered by the Army. We never wanted to be a part of this drama. However, due to certain constraints, we thought to give it a try. Ultimately, falsehood has prevailed and truth has been buried silently,” Shakoor said.
“We fought persistently for 14 years. And we’ll continue to fight. Army’s verdict is a slap on the justice system,” he added.