Posts Tagged ‘CBI’

AHMED ALI FAYYAZ, The Hindu

Responding to the public pressure, an Army court on Saturday decided to shift its centre of recording the statements of witnesses in the Pathribal carnage from Nagrota in Jammu to Awantipore in Kashmir valley. The court is holding trial on a chargesheet as the CBI has held a group of the Army officials guilty of killing five civilians in a fake encounter in Anantnag district in March 2000.

Even as the civilian witnesses had declined to travel to the headquarters of 16 Corps at Nagrota, the court had continued its initial proceedings in Jammu. It has finally relented to the extent of facilitating the recording of the evidences at headquarters of Victor Force at Awantipore in south Kashmir.

“Upholding the principles of justice, in a significant endeavour to facilitate timely conclusion of the case, the officer recording Summary of Evidence has been directed to move to Awantipur for recording the statements of the remaining witnesses,” an Army spokesperson said in a handout. He said that fresh summons had been issued to all the witnesses, including the family members of the five persons killed in the controversial shootout.

“Statements of 26 witnesses, including all the Army witnesses and some police as well as government officials, have been recorded so far. However, despite repeated summons issued to the civilian witnesses, they have not come forward to depose before the Army court, which is unduly delaying the judicial process”, said the handout. Recording of statements would commence from March 5.

On the night intervening March 20 and 21 in 2000, 35 male members of the Sikh community were massacred outside a Gurudwara at Chittisinghpura in Anantnag district. Four days later, officials of Rashtriya Rifles 7th battalion claimed to have killed “five foreign mercenaries” holding them responsible for the massacre. Soon, the residents of different villages developed suspicions with regard to the Army’s claim. They held demonstrations, asking the authorities to trace out the five civilians, who had been picked up in late night raids by different units of the armed forces.

As the residents’ demand grew louder with the death of seven demonstrators in firing by the men of Special Operations Group of Anantnag district police, a special investigation was ordered and all the five bodies were exhumed under magisterial supervision. Fudging of some tissue samples in a Forensic Science laboratory led to a fresh pandemonium. Finally, the investigation was assigned to the CBI.

In 2006, CBI completed its investigation and produced challan in a designated court in Srinagar. It found five Army officials responsible for stage-managing a fake encounter and claimed that the five innocent civilians had been killed so as to project them as the militants responsible for the Sikhs’ massacre.

Brig. Ajay Saxena, Lt. Col. Brajendra Pratap Singh, Maj. Sourabh Sharma, Maj. Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan were charged by the CBI with the murder of the five civilians.

However, Army put up resistance, claiming that the courts could not hold the trial without proper sanction from the government of India, as the Army in Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed special powers and immunity against such prosecutions. The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir stayed the proceedings in 2007.

The CBI pleaded that it was a “cold-blooded murder” of innocent civilians and the armed forces’ special powers and immunity were restricted only to the genuine counter-insurgency operations. The Supreme Court did not agree with the CBI but directed the Army to either hold the trial in its own court or choose the option of a civil court. On September 20, 2012, Lt. Gen. A.S. Nandal, who is also GOC of 16 Corps, started hearing the CBI case after the matter was shifted from the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Srinagar to the Army court.

On January 14, 2013, the General Court Marshal asked the family members of the five deceased persons to depose at Nagrota on January 28 but they refused to travel to Jammu and expressed security concerns. Finally, the Army court decided to record rest of the witnesses’ statements in the Valley.

 

Advertisements

By Anuradha Bhasin in Kindle Magazine June 2012

2012-05-09

Kashmir is observing the third anniversary of the Shopian double rapes and murders, which have become a test case in the vast tapestry of human rights abuse in Jammu and Kashmir. The incident symbolises brutality, travesty of justice, a systemic pattern of abuse of power by the security forces that goes beyond unjustifi ed laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in a Valley that already stands psychologically alienated from the rest of the country.

On May 29, 2009, two women, Asiya and Neelofar went missing from their orchard around 7.00pm in Shopian. Th eir bodies were found in the wee hours next morning in the Rambiara nallah, a small trickle of a stream, between their home and their orchard. The area is ensconced between three security camps, all of which have a commanding view from their watch towers over the spot where the bodies were found. The two women were alleged to have been raped and murdered by men in uniform. But till date there has been no justice, not even a fair investigation that would unravel the truth.

The Shopian incident was followed by an unprecedented campaign for justice launched by the people of Shopian under the banner of Majlis-e-Mashawarat and the Shopian Bar Association. It was totally peaceful and apolitical. The government response to the same during this period was marked by lies and deception. This trajectory of deceit is what makes the tragedy of Shopian graver.

After the two bodies were found, two post-mortem reports confirmed sexual assault and ruled out death by drowning. Their deaths sparked anger and protests, culminating in a two-month-long shutdown in Shopian and sporadic incidents of violence and hartals in the rest of the Valley. The anger was fuelled by the police’s deliberate bid to tamper with evidence and the government’s total refusal in acknowledging the wrongs. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s ill-advised press conference four days after the incident, acted as an agent provocateur. Omar admonished journalists for using the word ‘rape’ and not ‘alleged rape,’ informed that preliminary findings said that the two women had drowned but in the same breath announced a one-man commission headed by retired high court judge, Justice Muzaff ar Jan to probe the incident. Two parallel investigations by the police’s Special Investigation Team and the Justice Jan Commission of Inquiry began. The first made precious little effort, besides sprucing up the entire controversy with rumours, fed mostly through willing sections of the media. The second came up with a report within a month, confirming rape and murder and also indicting police officers for tampering with evidence and maintaining that this was deliberate. However, it did not name any culprits. Based on these findings, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court stepped in and sought the arrest of the indicted policemen, observing that they either knew who had done it or they themselves were the culprits. The court also asked the SIT to complete investigations. Anger in Shopian continued to build because the SIT was simply dragging its feet over the probe, coupled with reports of DNA samples of the victims being fudged. The government, instead of ensuring that the SIT began some investigation, decided to call in the CBI to investigate the entire case.

The CBI coverup started with the exhumation and autopsy of the bodies, four months after they were buried and culminated in the chargesheeting of 13 persons including the doctors who confirmed sexual assault and ruled out drowning, as well as members of the Shopian Bar and a brother of Asiya. The Shopian rapes and murders were offi cially declared cases of ‘drowning’. The cops indicted with tampering with evidence have been given a clean chit. The CBI was clearly guided by a misplaced sense of justice: ignore the wrong and punish the whistleblowers. If you can’t quieten voices of resentment, intimidate them, gag them and demonise them by using a willing media. That appears to have been the inspiring tagline of the CBI during its Operation, Lies in Shopian.

‘If you can’t convince someone, you confuse them.’ That was American President, Harry S. Truman half a century ago. This is precisely how the official response to the Shopian rapes and murders (of May 29, 2009) and the campaign for justice that followed can be summed up. From the very beginning, the government response to one of the biggest controversies ever in the history of Kashmir, has been marked by inconsistency. The official investigating agencies – right from the Special Investigation Team of the Jammu and Kashmir Police to the CBI have been busier spreading canards of lies, spinning rumours and using the media as a tool to leak misinformation, rather than clearing the cobwebs.

It wasn’t just evidence that was destroyed in Shopian. It was the last remnant of people’s faith in the Indian democracy and its legal justice system that was fully destroyed. Exactly a year on from the Shopian experience, a Valley long since disenchanted by the gun and dismayed by the brazen pattern of impunity, found stones and stone pelting as its new weapon of resistance and protest but these resulted in 130 deaths during a five month long period. These killings, despite the government acknowledging that the victims were innocent boys, have not been investigated till date. Ever since, the two-year lull, replaced only by the presence of tourists, has been projected by the government as normalcy. Amarnath land row in 2008. Shopian in 2009. Summer agitation in 2010. Together these three successive summers explain the present fatigue. And, fatigue doesn’t last forever! Once it ends, anger is bound to manifest itself in one way or the other. But those in power would remain just as ‘sensitive’, inspired only by the need to protect the existing patterns of travesty of justice at any cost, happy with fairytales and blissful ignorance like the owners of birds in cages, unmindful that when caged birds lose their fatigue and begin to sing, they may not be happy, they may only be complaining.

(Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal is Executive Editor, Kashmir Times and a human rights activist. She was part of a six member Women’s Initiative for Justice in Shopian Rapes and Murders. Extracts from her previous articles published between May 2009 and May 2010 in Kashmir Times have been included in this article.)

Amnesty International 
1 May 2012 

India: Pathribal ruling a setback for justice in Jammu and Kashmir 

Special powers that allow India’s armed forces suspected of involvement in extra-judicial killings to sidestep the civilian courts have been reinforced in a disappointing court ruling over the notorious killings of five Kashmiri civilians 12 years ago.

India’s Supreme Court has contradicted a reported statement by its Justices in February 2012 that army personnel suspected of murder should be placed in front of a civil judge.

Instead it opted to give military authorities eight weeks to bring about the court martial of eight army officials allegedly responsible for the unlawful killing of five youths in Pathribal, in March 2000. Failing that, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), may apply to prosecute the army personnel.

“Today’s ruling is a major setback – not only for victims in this case but for other victims unlawfully killed by army or paramilitary forces in Jammu and Kashmir,” said Ramesh Gopalakrishnan, Amnesty International’s India Researcher.  

“The option of a court martial allows these army officials to continue to avoid judgment in court of law.” 

The CBI, which investigated the Pathribal killings, has contended it has sufficient evidence to show that the killings were extrajudicial executions and ‘cold-blooded murder’. It filed charges against the eight army officials in local courts in Jammu and Kashmir. In response army officials invoked special powers stating that they need not appear for trial in a civilian court of law.

The Armed Forces J & K (Special Powers) Act, 1990 requires the CBI to seek official permission to initiate criminal proceedings against the eight accused officials.

“Today’s ruling should have taken into account the evidence provided by the CBI; by giving the first option to the army for a court martial, this ruling reinforces immunity from prosecution in other cases of alleged extra-judicial killings in Jammu and Kashmir,” said Gopalakrishnan.

“Instead of upholding the universal and constitutional right to life, the Supreme Court chose to rely on emergency laws which provide excessive powers, as well as impunity, to the army.  

“The families of the victims must have their day in court. The Indian authorities must restore public confidence in the rule of law, and ensure justice for the victims of the Pathribal killings. 

“Impunity for human rights violations by the army and paramilitary forces under “special powers” legislation must stop.” 

Download the Judgement here