A String Of Killings

On the night of March 20 fifteen years ago, gunmen whose identity could not be ascertained stormed the Chittisinghpora village in South Kashmir and mowed down thirty-five Kashmiris.  While the Valley still in mourning, the state claimed to have eliminated five “terrorists” involved in the massacre. The Pathribal encounter, as it came to be known, was found to have been fake, and the five “terrorists” ordinary villagers. On April 3, eight persons were killed when protest demonstrations against the Pathribal incident were fired upon.

A CBI inquiry had indicted the army in the Pathribal case, and exonerated the local police. The normal criminal justice system should have been allowed to prosecute the indicted army personnel but the Supreme Court ruled that that had to be sanctioned of the central government, and gave the accused the choice of being tried by court martial. This simply meant that the relatives of the Pathribal victims would never get justice. Similarly, a Commission headed by Justice Pandian had indicted the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the police and the CRPF in the Brakpora killings. And again, justice was denied.

Curiously, the state has ignored growing demands for a probe into the Chittisinghpora killings, a massacre that shook the world.  A fair and thorough investigation could have brought the truth to the fore, a dire need given the conduct of ‘security’ and law-enforcing agencies operating in Jammu and Kashmir over the past twenty-five years.

In July 1995, six foreign tourists were abducted by Al Faran, an outfit unknown till then, and everybody blamed the militants for their subsequent killing. But the authors of The Meadow were able to lay their hands on important official documents which prove beyond reasonable doubt that the hostages were eliminated by state actors. There have been cases where the men in uniform have abducted and later killed innocent people for rewards.

The Chattisinghpora killings were carried out when the then US president, Bill Clinton, was in India. Kashmiris, by and large, believe that blood was shed at Chittisinghpora to paint the on-going movement in communal colours. That the government has been reluctant to probe the carnage reflects that it desperately needs to keep facts under the wraps.