Families demand reopening of the case
ANANTNAG: On the 17th anniversary of infamous Pathribal fake encounter, family members of the victims Saturday organised a remembrance meeting to pay them homage in Brari Angan village of Shangas in Anantnag district.
They also held protests against continuous denial of justice and demanded reopening of the case.
On this day in 2000, army murdered five civilians in Pathribal forests and dubbed them as foreign militants responsible for the massacre of 35 Sikhs in Chattisinghpora village four days earlier.
Two of the victims, Juma Khan and his namesake and neighbour hailing from Brari Angan village of Shangas, had been picked up from their homes during the dead of the night a day before while three other victims— Mohammad Yusuf Malik and Bashir Ahmad Bhat of Halan Verinag and Zahoor Ahmad Dalal of Moominabad— had been picked up from other places.
Malik and Bhat were business partners. The murdered civilians were had been buried by the army at separate places. Their bodies had been charred beyond recognition. However, locals refused to buy the army claim and demanded that the bodies of the slain be exhumed.
A week later, on February 2, seven more civilians fell to the bullets of special operations group (SOG) of police and CRPF near Brakpora during a protest in which they were demanding exhumation of the bodies.
The case was later handed over to CBI which in its findings in 2013 described the killings as a cold blooded murder. The CBI also indicted four army officers for faking a gunfight for promotions and other monetary benefits.
In 2014, the Supreme Court on the basis of the CBI report asked the army to decide whether the accused army men be tried in a civil court or in court martial. Army chose the latter and closed the case, giving clean chit to all its indicted officials.
Despite the closure of the case the victim families continued to raise their voice for justice. On the 17th anniversary of the fake encounter, 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 ‘Give justice to Pathribal fake encounter victims’ , the family members and scores of locals marched towards the graveyard where the victims are burried and offered special prayers for them.
“We organise remembrance meeting on the anniversary of the fake encounter ever year. Organising such meetings is aimed at telling the killers that we have not forgotten our loved ones,” Rashid Khan, son of one of the victims Juma Khan told reporters on the sidelines of remembrance meet.
He said that army might have closed the case by giving clean chit to its men involved in the murders but “our resolve to seek justice has not broken”.
“I am a poor Gujjar but not a coward to give up fight for justice. We demand that the case be reopened and the killers identified and punished,” Rashid told reporters.
Khan has been on the forefront in pleading the case before state appointed inquiry commissions and courts.
Asked does he still expect justice when nobody seems to be listening to his cries, Rashid said, “Blood of innocents always speaks up so I have not lost the hope. The entire world knows what happened at Pathribal. Conscious people sitting across the world are listening to our cries. I am hopeful that someone someday will come forward to help us get justice.”