The Kupwara Massacre completed 25 years today, 25 years in which all hope of justice for the victims has been systematically extinguished. No response has come from the Ministry of Defence to notices issued by both the J&K High Court and the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), nor has the army responded to inquiries made by the J&K Police. The state police has already closed the case as “untraced”.
In 2012, rights activist Ahsan Untoo had moved a petition before the SHRC to help identify and punish the guilty. In 2014, another petition was moved before the J&K High Court to seek a report on the massacre. Till date no such report has been furnished before both these institutions.
“Why the (State) Human Rights Commission or the High Court is unable to call for a report, when both have powers to do so?” Untoo asked while speaking to Kashmir Reader. He further questioned why these institutions cannot issue warrants to bring the accused before them, and why they are not taking any action against authorities responsible for submitting the report.
On the eve of India’s Republic Day in 1994, a warning from Indian Army to not observe a shutdown on January 26 was ignored by people, who as usual shut down business and observed Republic Day as ‘Black Day’. The next day, troops from the 31 Medium Regiment gunned down 27 persons, among them three policemen, in Kupwara market. The massacre took place on January 27, 1994.
Police registered an FIR, no.19/1994 under Sections 302, 307, at police station Kupwara. It reads, “In a criminal assault, the soldiers of 31 Medium Regiment who were on road opening party duty led by Field Officer S. Bakshi gunned down scores of people in indiscriminate firing in Kupwara market and its vicinity without any provocation.”
The police investigation into the case was closed as “un-traced” on 10 April 1997 on the grounds of “non-cooperation of army authorities”.
A petition was filed by Ahsan Untoo, chairperson of International Forum for Justice and Human Rights, before the SHRC for directions to authorities to submit a report about the massacre.
The police’s criminal investigation department (CID) said in its reply that it had sought a response from the army, which only issued a letter stating that a Court of Inquiry had been constituted to probe the incident. The outcome of the Court of Inquiry was never furnished to the police.
Also, the CID report said that on 24 September 2004, the police reopened the case and the then additional SP was tasked with the inquiry, but despite repeated requests the army did not provide the requisite information.
The army services corps’ 31 Medium Regiment said that no documents regarding the case were lying with it and asked the CID to approach the 28 Infantry Division.
A letter was written to the 28 Infantry Division on 28 May 2005 for information regarding the case, but till date the unit has furnished nothing even after repeated reminders.
Another notice under Section 25 of the Police Act was served to JDS Bakshi, asking him to appear before the investigation officer on 27 February 2010, but he didn’t turn up.
After a rejoinder filed by Untoo on 11 May 2012, Inspector General of Police (CID) submitted a report to the Director General of Police, J&K, stating that the armed forces deployed in Kupwara under the command of 2nd Lieutenant S Bakshi had indiscriminately fired at people at Bus Stand Kupwara without any provocation, killing several persons besides injuring many.
The report further stated that as per the statements recorded under Section 161 of CrPC and evidence, the National Crime Agency (NCA) personnel deployed for Road Opening Party (ROP) duties in Kupwara town were responsible for the massacre.