Nineteen people were killed in the massacre 14 years ago, which the police had blamed on foreign militants
JK High Court on Wednesday 21 November ordered a CBI inquiry into the 14-year-old massacre at Sailan Surankote in Jammu province. Nineteen persons, including men, women and children were killed at the house of Hassan Mohammad Sheikh, which the police had blamed on foreign militants.
However, soon after the massacre, an investigation by the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) ruled out the role of foreign militants and instead implicated the army and police in the killings, recommending a fresh inquiry.
In 2011, the families of the massacre victims filed a petition for re-investigation in the case before the High Court. In its status report to the court, the Station House Officer (SHO) of Surankote Police Station stated that the case was investigated and closed on three occasions. But the report made no mention of the case being ever produced before the court, a pre-requisite for closure, as no relevant documents could be retrieved from the court or the police offices. The case file, the report stated, was last sent to Sub Divisional Police Office in the nearby Mendhar, which was gutted in 2010.
The order for reinvestigation has been welcomed by the human rights groups in the state. “Today’s order, while welcome, is also an indictment of the Jammu and Kashmir Police that took no action for 14 years, and in fact sought to scuttle any fair investigations into the massacre. Now it is important to ensure that the CBI carries out a fair, speedy and impartial investigation,” said Khurram Parvez, convenor of Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society. “Further, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir promoted and awarded the alleged perpetrators of the massacre such as DIG J P Singh.”
The victims’ families, on the other hand, exhibit mixed emotions. “We are happy that the judgment has come in our favour. We hope the CBI will deliver justice by conducting a fair investigation,” Latif Ahmad, who lost his mother, father and four sisters in the massacre, told Tehelka. “We will doggedly pursue the case to its end and ensure the killers get punished,” he added.
According to Latif, the massacre was an act of revenge executed by the police and security forces for the killing of informer Zakir Hussain by his cousin Imtiyaz, who was a militant. “Imtiyaz killed Zakir in an encounter. And on the same night uniformed personnel comprising informers, police and security personnel descended on our house and killed everybody,” Latif said. Latif himself was not at home on the night. “I had come from Saudi Arabia three days before and had gone to stay the night with a relative at Surankote.”
Riyaz Wani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.