January 26, 2014 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Anantnag, Kashmir (January 26, 2014): Terming the exoneration of Army officers involved in the Pathribal fake encounter as shameful, All Party Sikh Co-ordination Committee (APSCC) and the families of Chatisinghpora massacre victims sought investigation into the killing of 36 Sikhs in March 2000.
“The Pathribal case is connected to Chatisinghpora massacre and hence should be probed so that truth comes to fore,” said the families of the victims.
According to the ‘Greater Kashmir’: [i]n the evening of March 20, 2000, on the eve of then US President Bill Clinton’s visit to India, gunmen reportedly dressed in army fatigues entered Chatisinghpora, a predominantly Sikh village in South Kashmir’s Islamabad district.
They ordered all the Sikh men and boys to assemble at the village Gurdwara, shot and killed 36 of them. On March 25, Army shot dead five men in Pathribal village in the same district and claimed they were foreign militants responsible for killing the Sikhs. The Army version was supported by police who termed it a joint operation. It later turned out that all those killed in Pathribal were local residents reportedly picked up by Army, police and government gunmen from various areas.
Seven more people protesting against the Pathribal killings were killed in firing by police and paramilitary forces at Brakpora.
“We can understand the pain of the Pathribal victims as we have undergone through the same. Exonerating the Army officers who everybody knew killed innocent civilians in stage managed encounter is shameful,” said the victims’ families.
They said that though justice continues to elude the Pathribal victims and those killed in Brakpora, but at least truth has come to fore that Army and police was responsible for these two incidents. “In our case, truth has been concealed for unknown reasons and no inquiry was conducted at all into the incident either by State or Central government,” the victim families lamented.
Nanak Singh, 58, a survivor of the massacre who lost his 16-year old son Gurmeet Singh, 25-year old brother Dalbeer Singh and three of his cousins in the gory incident, is also baffled about the reluctance of the government in ordering inquiry.
“Leave apart justice, what I fail to understand is what stopped the State and Central governments from at least ordering an inquiry into the horrific massacre of 36 Sikhs,” said Nanak Singh.
He said that then Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah had expressed his helplessness in the matter saying he was not allowed to order inquiry. “We want to at least know who these hidden hands were,” said Nanak Singh.
Recalling the incident, Nanak Singh, who survived in the incident after receiving a bullet injury, says, “It was the eve of Holi festival and at around 7:45 in the evening men in Army fatigues asked the villagers to come out of their houses and assemble saying that they had information about the presence of militants in the area.”
He said that the villagers who were inside the Gurdwara were also made to assemble outside.
“While some were assembled at Sheikhpora Mohalla others were queued up near Gurdwara,” Singh says.
He said that the men in Army fatigues, speaking in Hindi, offered wine to them which they rejected. “They later opened fire on people. The bodies were lying all around me in a pool of blood and I could hardly gather what had happened. A bullet pierced through my hip but I survived, only to watch five of my family members being cremated,” says Nanak Singh amid sobs.
He said that it was a doomsday in the entire village with everyone in grief.
“Not only Sikhs but the Muslim brethren of our village were in a state of mourning but were making desperate attempts to console us,” Singh said.
Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee Chatisinghpora, while expressing sympathies with the Pathribal victim families, also demanded an inquiry into the Chatisinghpora massacre.
“The fact that Chatisinghpora was controlled by the same Army unit which claimed to have killed five people in Pathribal makes it more necessary that an inquiry should have been ordered into Chatisinghpora killings too,” said members of the committee.
The CBI in its charge-sheet, while blaming the Army for Pathribal killings, has said that the concerned Army unit was under tremendous psychological pressure to deliver after the killing of 36 Sikhs.
A member of the committee, Yashpal Singh said, “We want truth to come out.”
“We are still living in fear, but it was because of the support of our Muslim brethren that not a single Sikh family migrated nor we can ever think of that,” said Gyani Rajinder Singh, a member of the committee. “Let me tell those people who orchestrated this massacre that we were born here and will also die here.”
Meanwhile, All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee Kashmir (APSCCK), terming the exoneration of Army officials highly condemnable, also demanded a time bound inquiry into Chatisinghpora massacre.
“The decision of the Army to give clean shit to its men involved in innocent killings in Pathribal is highly condemnable,” said President APSCCK, Jagmohan Singh Raina.
He said that the accused Army officials should have been tried in civil court after being found guilty by CBI and Apex Court.
“We have always been maintaining that Chatisinghpora, Pathribal and Brakpora are a series of interlinked occurrences and hence can’t be taken up in isolation. So we have been demanding a time bound inquiry into Chatisinghpora massacre too,” said Jagmohan Singh Raina.
He said that even Pandian Commission set up into the killing of seven people at Brakpora while recommending an inquiry commission for all three incidents had stated that the incidents were inter-linked.
“We don’t expect justice from this system but at least we want an inquiry so as to revive the truth as who was behind the killings,” said Jagmohan Singh Raina.
He said that the killings on the eve of US President’s visit suggested that the massacre was well planned.
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