Closure Remains Elusive

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The families of five men killed in the fake encounter of 2000 are not convinced that a court martial will deliver justice, reports Baba Umar

Awaiting justice Abdul Rashid Khan lost his father in the Pathribal encounter
Awaiting justice Abdul Rashid Khan lost his father in the Pathribal encounter
Photos: Abid Bhat

JUSTICE IN the Pathribal fake encounter case, in which five villagers were gunned down by the army on 25 March 2000, is being seen as a key to unlock the mystery surrounding the Chattisinghpora massacre of 35 Sikhs by “unidentified gunmen” and the legality of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu & Kashmir.

However, the 12-year-old case has run into a roadblock. The case has passed through the chambers of the Anantnag District Court, the Jammu & Kashmir High Court, and the Supreme Court. Now, the army’s 16 Corps, based in Nagrota cantonment in Jammu, is conducting court martial proceedings against the five accused armymen.

The victims’ families want proceedings shifted back to Kashmir and conducted in full media glare. Otherwise, they want security cover and counsels of their own choice. However, the army has refused to accept the conditions.

“If the army is honest in trying its soldiers for the murders, why is it reluctant to shift the case to Kashmir, instead of making us travel 300 km to Jammu?” asks Ghulam Nabi Malik, whose brother Muhammad Yousuf Malik of Kapran village was one of the five innocent civilians gunned down by the army five days after the Chattisinghpora massacre took place on 20 March 2000. The victims were dubbed Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba militants responsible for the massacre and were buried in five unmarked graves at two different villages.

Malik, whose DNA matched with the sample taken from the charred body of his brother, says, “What we can or have said in civil courts can’t be said in an army court. Those who staged the encounter and fudged DNA tests can also use our testimonials against us. Let them allow our counsels to talk on our behalf. They can make better arguments than most of our illiterate family members.”

So far, the case has encountered several twists. A CBI inquiry concluded that the victims were indeed civilians. Later, the DNA samples taken from the victims’ male relatives were fudged. The samples turned out to be those of unknown females. Another lot of samples of the male relatives later proved the CBI’S findings. The CBI also nailed the roles of Brigadier Ajay Saxena, Major Bijendra Pratap Singh, Major Sourabh Sharma, Major Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan in the fake encounter.

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