January 27, 2014
The HinduLeft bereaved by the protector: A State-ordered exhumation revealed, in 2000, that the bodies that the Army claimed belonged to militants were those of the missing men picked up from villages around Pathribal by security agencies. Here, the kin of a victim hold up a photograph of his. Photo: Nissar Ahmad
The Army’s clean chit to the accused in the Pathribal fake encounter case is an insult to the sacrifices made by its men in Kashmir
Let us not go to Pathribal first. Let us go to Shopian instead, not very far from Pathribal. In May 2009, two women went to work in their orchard in this town in south Kashmir and did not return till late in the night. In the ensuing search, the two were found dead by a rivulet. The separatist machinery in the Kashmir Valley was quick to cash in on this tragedy. The deaths were immediately dubbed as rape and murder, committed by — who else? — the Indian security forces. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had assumed office only a few months before and he was keen to prove that he meant business. He issued orders in haste. Four police officers were suspended and later jailed for almost two months.
It was a CBI investigation that brought out the truth after a few months. The investigation revealed that the two women had drowned in the flooded rivulet while they were attempting to cross it. The CBI filed a charge sheet against six doctors and others, including the brother of one of the deceased, for fabricating evidence. One of the doctors, the CBI found, had fudged the vaginal swab samples to prove that the women were raped.
The fake murder case had led to violent protests across Kashmir Valley. But, in the wake of the CBI charge sheet the separatist propaganda rang hollow. Though once in a while, the Delhi lobby of sympathisers still brings it up in TV discussions.
Around three years before its investigation in the Shopian incident, the CBI filed a charge sheet against seven men of the Army’s 7 Rashtriya Rifles unit, accusing them of killing in cold blood five innocent villagers and passing them off as foreign militants. On the night of March 20, 2000, the eve of American President Bill Clinton’s visit to India, suspected militants of Lashkar-e-Taiba had shot dead 35 Sikhs in the village of Chittisinghpora, near Pathribal. Five days later, the Army said that it had, in a joint operation with the police in Pathribal, eliminated five foreign militants responsible for the Chittisinghpora massacre. Prior to this, five men had been picked up from villages around Pathribal on the nights of March 23 and 24, 2000. The picking up of youth by various security agencies was a routine practice those days in Kashmir. But the families of the five missing men got suspicious after the Army’s press conference on the encounter. Subsequent protests forced the State government to orderan exhumation of the bodies of the ‘foreign militants’. It was done two weeks after the killings. They turned out to be the bodies of the five missing men. Apart from being shot, the bodies were badly charred and their body parts were chopped off.