//Why is Delhi not investigating the Sikh Massacre in Chittisinghpora in Kashmir?

Why is Delhi not investigating the Sikh Massacre in Chittisinghpora in Kashmir?

Sunday 7th of May 2006, D S Gill, Chair IHRO

Why is Delhi not investigating the Sikh Massacre in Chittisinghpora in Kashmir?

Only because, it has something to hide, but the cat is out of the bag…

The International Human Rights Organisation (IHRO) had indicted the Indian security agencies and armed forces along with the surrendered militants for the 2000 Chittisinghpora (Anantnag) massacre of 35 Sikhs. Chief Justice Mufti Bahuddin Farooqi of the J & K High Court (retired) then told the IHRO visiting team that no one was safe from these renegades and they had hitlist of their own, besides Kashmiri activists.
Justice Farooqi and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq were unanimous in opinion that the Sikh carnage was directed to rupture the secular fabric of Kashmir and to defame the Kashmir movement for freedom. The heinous act was so designed to scuttle US President Bill Clinton’s intermediary role in resolving the conflict to restore peace in South Asia, both said separately. “This machinated gruesome massacre impressed the mind of President Clinton who hurriedly endorsed the preconditions imposed by India for a starting peace dialogue with Pakistan. And, this will definitely dampen the peace initiative in the region.” Even the High Court Bar Association had opined the same, saying that the area around the ill-fated Chittisinghpora village was largely controlled by armed militant groups that had abandoned freedom movement and were recruited by the army as an auxiliary counter-insurgency force. They were provided with settlements almost adjoining to the army camps. Not only that even the Hizbul Mujahideen leader Sayed Salahuddin is on record, to say: “The killing was aimed at creating a wedge between the Sikhs and the Muslims in Kashmir.”

Then, how come National Security advisor Brajesh Mishra named at New Delhi the two militant groups early on March 21 while the DIG, Anantnag, Raja Ajaz Ali the same evening said that killers could not be identified as they were in army fatigues. Definitely, the IHRO’s accusing finger was towards the intelligence network and counter-insurgency force (renegades). And that was why the IHRO had demanded a judicial inquiry by two sitting judges of the Supreme Court into this horrible massacre of innocent Sikhs in the area of South Kashmir. The NGO had also demanded an inquiry into the alleged encounter in which militants, said to be involved in the Chittisinghpora killings, had been killed. It was at this stage that the then chief minister of J & K, Abdullah agreed to a CBI inquiry and in the Assembly identified the five civilians killed in Pathribal: Zahoor Ahmed Dalal, Juma Khan, Mohammad Yussuf Malik, Juma Khan and Bashir Ahmed Bhat.

Now the cat is out of the bag. In the course of its three-year long investigation, the CBI amassed sufficient evidence to book five Army officers for killing five Kashmiris civilians in cold blood. All the five killed by the army personnel in the faked Pathribal encounter were blamed for Chittisinghpura killings, according to Ritu Sarin of the Indian Express who had filed a story on April 26 last, datelined Delhi.

There was yet another encounter. A Defence Ministry representative said that the troops, on a tip-off that a group of militants, had entered Brang valley from Kuthar valley in district Anantnag, launched a massive search operation around six ‘O clock morning. ”The troops were conducting house to house searches at Halan village when they were fired upon by militants with automatic weapons from different directions. The troops retaliated and killed six militants, allegedly part of the militant group who had killed 35 Sikhs at Chittisinghpora on March 20 night,” he said (Indian Express, March 30). He said with the killing of the six militants, 11 ultras responsible for the March 20 carnage had been eliminated within four days.

This too seems a fake encounter and needs to be investigated. Why does the army do so? Because, they have something to hide from the public. That was why the IHRO had demanded a credible judicial inquiry into the Sikh carnage and the encounter killings of those allegedly involved in the Sikh massacre. And the IHRO, on April 2, 2000, then had petitioned to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairman Mr Justice J S Verma to get investigated the massacre and subsequent killings of the “militants” in encounters with the army troops so that the truth may come out and the guilty may be brought to book. Unfortunately, the NHRC preferred to maintain silence on this crucial issue.

And last week, former Chief Election Commissioner and MP Manohar Singh Gill called for a complete and comprehensive investigation into the massacre of Sikhs in Chithisinghpora. He was reacting to The Indian Express report on the CBI move to charge sheet five Army officers in the infamous Pathribal ‘‘encounter’’ in Anantnag in March 2000.

‘‘The massacre of 35 Sikhs in Chittisinghpora in March 2000 was one of the most tragic incidents in our country’s history. Now that it has been proved that the five Kashmiris killed by the Army were not responsible for the act, the question arises as to who was behind the massacre? Why has there been no CBI inquiry into the massacre, timed to coincide with US President Bill Clinton’s visit to India?’’ asked Gill. Expressing surprise, he had asked as to why, if the state government could call for a CBI probe into the deaths of five youths who were held responsible for the killings, a similar probe could not be ordered into the massacre itself.

‘‘Did the death of five people outweigh that of 40 others that no need for a CBI inquiry was felt?’’ ‘‘It is strange that the Sikh minority in the state was targeted for the first time when it had remained largely untouched by militancy over decades. How did the Sikhs get on the wrong side of the militants all of a sudden? Why has the role of the army and the state police not been examined in the case?’’ he questioned, hinting at a possible political angle to the massacre.

Will the Government of India hand over the tragic massacre’s investigation to the CBI, is anybody’s guess. But I am sure, it WOULD NOT.

D S Gill

D S Gill is the current Chair of the International Human Rights Ooganization (IHRO) and can be reached at : [email protected]