Srinagar, March 21 (KMS): In Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Indian agencies through killers of Hindu extremist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) massacred 35 innocent Sikhs in Chittisinghpora area of Islamabad district on March 20, 2000.
A report compiled by Kashmir Media Service on the basis of surveys and interviews of representatives of Sikh organizations including Sikh Intellectuals Circle J&K, International Sikh Federation, Sikh Students Federation, J&K Sikh Council, Sikh Youths of J&K and lawyer bodies said that Chittisinghpora and other such massacres were perpetrated by Indian agencies to suppress the freedom movement in Kashmir. The survey pointed out that the timing of the massacre was important as it was carried out on the occasion of the visit of then American President Bill Clinton to India. This was to give him a false impression and that the Kashmir freedom movement was of the communal nature.
The interviewees said that earlier, Indian agencies succeeded in persuading the Pandit community to leave the valley to communalize the Kashmir dispute, globally. Instead of offering protection to the Pandits, the Indian government issued advisories asking them to quit the Kashmir valley, and felicitated their departure to advance the RSS-devised plan of portraying Kashmir as a communal issue and not an issue of right to self-determination. The notion is strengthened by the fact that despite several petitions, the Indian government has denied to investigate the Pandit migration from the valley.
After Pandits, now the Indian agencies advised their RSS agents to target the Sikh community. On March 20, 2000, 30-40 heavily armed men entered the Chittsinghpora village, located in Islamabad district and ordered all the Sikh men to assemble at the local gurdwara. The gunmen systematically shot and killed 35 of them. The massacre was staged hours before the then US President Bill Clinton’s visit to India.
This was the first time in the Kashmir conflict that Sikhs had even been targeted, the report said. In response to the offer of so-called protection by then Indian Home Minister LK Advani to the IIOJK’s Sikh population, the Sikh leadership rejected the offer, saying that the Muslim majority had not been hostile to them and that no protection was needed.
Hurriyat as well as leadership of Mujhaideen accused the Indian government of carrying out the massacre to discredit the Kashmir’s freedom movement. The pro-freedom leadership assured the Sikhs that there never was and would never be any danger to them from Kashmiri freedom fighters.
The lone survivor of Chittisinghpora, Nanak Singh, said, “They [RSS goons] were calling each other with the names Pawan, Bansi, Bahadur and they left while shouting ‘Jai Hind’.
The KMS report cited Indian Army’s retired Lt Gen KS Gill who in 2017 was part of the investigation, to have said in an interview to Sikh News Express, that the Indian Army was involved in the massacre and the report had been submitted to Indian Home Minister L.K. Advani.
The Chittisinghpora massacre further led to the killings in Pathribal and Barakpora areas of Islamabad district.
Between 23rd and 25th March 2000, five men were abducted by police and personnel of 7 Rashtariya Rifles from the above two villages of the district. On 25th March, the SSP police Islamabad announced in the presence of Home Minister LK Advani that the five “foreign militants’ were responsible for Chattisinghpora massacre.
They were killed in a ‘joint operation’ carried out by 7RR and Special Operations Group (SOG) of police. On the same day, a villager from Pathribal sees the bodies of the men killed in the encounter and recognizes of them as Jumma Khan, one of the abducted men.
Official reports claimed that Indian forces had after a gun fight, blown up the hut where the men were hiding. The troops had retrieved five bodies that had been charred beyond recognition. The bodies were buried separately without any postmortem examination. However, it was very doubtful for people and local bodies to believe this version of 7 RR and police.
There were protests against the killings in Pathribal. Around 2000 villagers take out a peaceful procession demanding justice for the victims of Pathribal fake encounter and return of the victims’ bodies to their families. On reaching Barakpora, the peaceful procession is openly fired at and eight civilians were killed.
Although the bodies were burnt beyond recognition, the families were able to recognize the men from certain marks and peculiarities. Blood samples from the bodies were also taken for establishing their identities through DNA analysis, but these samples were fudged twice. On 14th February, 2003, investigations into Pathribal fake encounter handed over to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
On 9th May 2006, CBI concluded the investigation and filed a charge sheet against 5 personnel of 7 RR, while accepting that others were also involved. DNA analysis done under CBI proved that the five men were the ones who were abducted from their homes before the fake encounter. The CBI also found facts challenging the army’s claim that the encounter was genuine, that while the bodies of the victims were burnt beyond recognition, their ‘hideout’ place was not.
While the CBI also proved the encounter was fake and the army was at fault. The Indian army who not only failed to cooperate in the investigation asked the case to be transferred to army court. The army in Kashmir, enjoys immunity under Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and cannot be charged any civil court including the Supreme Court. And, as usual army closed the matter stating lack of evidence and the culprits were freed once again and justice was denied.
Several petitions were filed by the family members and the report from several local bodies seeking the report from the army. There was also a petition filed challenging the Army’s decision to close the case. But every time a petition was filed, it was rejected stating that army had the option to close the case, and justice was denied.
On 27th July 2016, the family approached Indian Supreme Court again and filed a petition stating all the problematic aspects of the investigation and how AFSPA has helped army to avoid punishment for such criminal offences committed by them.
Over two decades have passed, the families of victims of Chattisinghpora, Pathribal and Barakpora massacres still seek justice.