Baramulla: A day after an army court in New Delhi suspended the life sentence given to five troopers of 4 Rajputana Rifles in the Machhil fake encounter case, the Jammu and Kashmir Police said that it has no information regarding the military court’s decision.
Director General of Police SP Vaid told reporters at district police lines in Baramulla on Wednesday, “I am not aware of it, I am hearing it from you. We will examine the case and see whatever legal course is there, we will take.”
The military court’s decision has shocked the families of the youth murdered in the fake encounter. Some family members reached the district magistrate’s office in Baramulla to register their protest. “If the army wants to release these killers, first they should kill us,” said Zahida, whose son Mohammad Shafi Lone was one of three youth lured from their village Nadihal in Rafiabad area of Baramulla for high-paying jobs along the Line of Control.
The convicted troopers — Commanding Officer Colonel Dinesh Pathania, Captain Upendra, Havildar Devendra Kumar, Lance Naik Lakhmi, and Lance Naik Arun Kumar – had approached the Armed Forces Tribunal challenging the life sentence given to them in 2014, which was confirmed by the Northern Command of the Indian Army in 2015.
The 2010 case was unearthed by J&K Police, which exhumed three bodies from a graveyard near Machhil along the LoC. The families later identified the bodies as those of Mohammad Shafi Lone, Riyaz Ahmad Lone and Shahzad Khan. The three youths had been lured for high-paying jobs by a former counter-insurgent on the advice of a Territorial Army trooper, Abbas Shah, and an army source, Hameed. They were taken to Kalaroos army camp in Kupwara district and killed during the night of April 29, 2010, at Son Pindi and branded as Pakistani infiltrators. The encounter was apparently staged for rewards and promotions.
The incident evoked sharp reactions and massive protests across Kashmir. Although police registered a case against the army, the troopers were convicted by a General Court Martial in 2014 after an inquiry report. The Armed Forces Tribunal has now suspended the life imprisonment of the five troopers.
“First of all, we want a punishment to Bashir who is from our village and who took our sons and sold them to army. He got them killed in a fake encounter for rewards and promotions,” Zahida demanded.
Naseema, mother of Riyaz Lone, spoke to reporters outside the DC office in Baramulla. “There are so many people including some local army men involved in the case. If the government or army want to release these killers, they should give us our children back,” she said.