ANANTNAG: The families of five men who were murdered by the army on 25 March 2000 and then labeled as ‘Pakistani terrorists who had massacred 35 Sikhs’ in Chattisinghpora four five days earlier organised a remembrance meeting on Friday to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the killings.
Special prayers were held at Brari Angan village of Shangas in South Kashmir, where the families vowed to fight for the justice for victims.
This day, army had picked up two of the victims—Juma Khan and his namesake and neighbor— hailing from Brari Angan village of Shangas had been picked up from their homes in the night, while three others — Mohammad Yusuf Malik and Bashir Ahmad Bhat of Halan Verinag and Zahoor Ahmad Dalal of Moominabad — had been picked from other places of the district. Malik and Bhat were business partners.
Official reports claimed that security forces had, after a gun fight, blown up the hut where the men were hiding, and had retrieved five bodies that had been charred beyond recognition. The bodies were buried separately without any postmortem examination.
However, locals refused to buy the Army claim and demanded that the bodies of the slain be exhumed.
A week later, on February 2, 2000, seven civilians fell to the bullets of special operations group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir Police and CRPF near Brakpora in Anantnag, when they were protesting against the killings and demanding exhumation of bodies. Following huge public outcry, the case was later handed over to CBI, which in its findings made public in 2013, described the killings as a cold-blooded murder.
The CBI also indicted four army officers for staging the gunfight for promotions and monetary benefits.
In 2014, Supreme Court on the basis of the CBI report asked the Indian army to decide whether the accused army men be tried in a civil court or in court martial. Army chose to try them in court martial and closed the case after giving clean chit to all its indicted officials.
Despite the closure of the case, the victim families continued to raise their voice against injustice.
On 16th anniversary of the killings, the kin of the two victims organised a remembrance meet at Brari Angan village. Carrying placards and banners reading ‘Reopen the Pathribal fake encounter case’ and ‘We want justice’, family members and locals marched towards the graveyard where the victims are buried and offered special prayers for them.
Rashid Khan, son of one of the victims, Juma Khan, said that the closure of the case by the army has not broken their resolve to fight for justice.
“Our resolve to raise voice for justice continues to be alive as it was on day one. I am a poor Gujjar but not a coward to give up fight for justice for my father,” Rashid who has been on the forefront in pleading the case told Kashmir Reader.
He appealed the international community and human rights groups to intervene so that justice is delivered to the victims of the fake encounter.
“It is a slur on the face of India that the killers of poor innocent Gujjars remain unpunished despite its own credible investigating agency inducting them for murders. World community should break its silence and press the Indian state to deliver justice to us,” Khan said.
He also accused the successive regimes of the state of failing them. “None of the state governments so far has ever mustered courage to ask the central government to punish the killers because the politicians here love their chair anything else. When army closed the case in 2013, the then chief minister Omar Abdullah had announced that he would reopen the case but his announcement proved to be a cruel joke,” Khan said.
Shakoor Khan, son of another victim, said that they remember their loved ones every day to convey the killers that they can’t ‘break our resolve’.
Resistance groups, including JKLF, DFP, Muslim League, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat and others demonstrated against the government. Member of Legislative Assembly Er Rashid also visited the victim families to express solidarity with them.
JKLF vice-chairman advocate Bashir Ahmad Bhat addressed the meeting and termed the massacres as a “glaring example of Indian-sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.”
He said that rewarding those involved in the killings shows how “Indian rulers are using undemocratic brutal means to continue their occupation in Jammu and Kashmir.”
Other leaders including Muhammad Sidiq Shah, Prof Javed, and Muhammad Ishaq Ganie, also addressed on the occasion. They said, “All these massacres show the brutal face of Indian occupation and are example of this country’s undemocratic attitude in the garb of democracy.”
The leaders reiterated the pledge of taking the “struggle of these innocent martyrs” to its ‘logical conclusion’.
Talking to reporters, Rashid said that it is shame for the government of India and the state governments that even after 16 years of the killings, the kin of the victims of fake encounter continue to cry for justice.
“Army in order to sabotage the inquiry into Chattisinghpora massacre killed five innocents, which was even proved by CBI. But killers still roam free. I will aggressively raise the demand for reopening of the case on the floor of the house,” Rashid told the remembrance meet