Justice continues to elude victims’ families even after 19 years

Srinagar, March 21 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, justice continues to elude the families of the victims of Chittisinghpora massacre even after the passing of 19 years to the incident.

Thirty-five members of Sikh community were killed in disguise by Indian troops in Chittisinghpora area of Islamabad district on March 20 in 2000 on the eve of the then US President, Bill Clinton’s visit to India.

Nanak Singh, 62, a member of local Gurdwara Prabhandak committee, is a witness to 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. He said, “It was quarter to eight. The killers asked the villagers to come out of their houses and assemble at one place, saying that there was presence of mujahideen in the area.”

“The villagers who were in the Gurdwara were also asked to assemble outside. I was one among 19 people assembled near main Gurdwara and 17 more were queued up near another small Gurdwara in Shokipora,” he recalled. “They trained guns towards us and started firing. Around me, there were bodies all around in a pool of blood. A bullet pierced through my hip but I survived, only to watch five of my family members being cremated,” said Nanak, amid sobs.

He said that the then puppet Chief Minister of the territory, Farooq Abdullah had expressed his helplessness in the matter, saying he was not allowed to order inquiry. “We want to know who these hidden hands were,” said Nanak.He demanded a thorough inquiry of Chittisinghpora massacre and also reopening of Pathribal and Brakpora cases. “All the three cases are interlinked,” he added.

Six days after the massacre, army claimed to have killed “five foreign militants” in an encounter in nearby Pathribal village, saying they were responsible for killings of 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 civilians killed in a staged encounter, a fact confirmed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Eight more civilians protesting against the Pathribal killings were killed in firing by police and paramilitary forces in Brakpora village on April 3.

Narender Kaur, 57, lost four members in her family including her husband in the massacre. “I can’t forget that evening. They asked the male members of our family to come out of the house as they have to carry out searches,” she added.

Jeet Kaul, 77, lost five members in the family. Her husband Fakir Singh and two sons – Karnail Singh and Seetal Singh – fell to the bullets while her grandsons Jitenander Singh and Sony Singh were also among those killed.

The families of all the victims are unanimously seeking an inquiry. “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 were responsible for these incidents. In our case, the truth has been concealed for unknown reasons and no inquiry was conducted either by the Indian government or local government in Kashmir,” the families lamented.

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