Eighteen years on, authorities seem to be in no mood to probe the infamous Chattisinghpora massacre of March 20, 2000, when gunmen, whose identity has not been ascertained to this day, massacred 34 Kashmiris in cold blood. The hamlet in South Kashmir was stormed by 15 gunmen wearing army fatigues. All males, including children, were herded towards the local Gurudwara, and the gunmen then opened indiscriminate fire, killing 34 persons in cold blood. Scores sustained injuries. One of them later succumbed in hospital. Officials have been accusing militants of the gruesome act, while the resistance leadership sees the hand of intelligence agencies behind the deed. Amid these accusations and counter-accusations, justice has become a casualty.
A survivor blamed the local unit of the Rashtriya Rifles of inaction. According to him, the attackers wore military uniforms, and were led by a man they addressed as ‘Commanding Officer.’ After killing the innocent villagers, As they withdrew, they allegedly shouted ‘Jai mata di’ and left behind bottles of liquor.”
The massacre took place during the US President, Bill Clinton’s visit to the subcontinent. The Government of India and the State Government were quick to put the blame on the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. The All Parties Hurriyat Conference, however, accused the Indian government of carrying out the killings to discredit the Kashmiri independence movement, while Syed Salahuddin, the head of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen said: “Mujahideen have nothing against the Sikh community which sympathizes with our struggle. We assure them that there never was and there will never be any danger to Sikhs from Kashmiri freedom fighters.”
In the introduction to her Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs, Madeleine Albright she accused “Hindu militants” of perpetrating the act. Hindu organizations protested, and ultimately the publishers edited it out of new editions and acknowledged the error in an email to the Times of India.
The government chose to probe other minor incidents related to the event. Demands from various quarters, including pro-India political parties and the Amnesty International, for probing the massacre have gone in vain. This has made the people believe that the government wants to conceal material facts about the killings. But the truth can be unveiled even now if the government conducts a thorough and impartial inquiry. Even as people observe the 18th anniversary of the massacre today, the greatest tribute to the victims would be to bring the culprits to justice.
On July 16 2002, the DNA test by the Central Forensic Laboratory, Kolkata, established that the five persons killed by Indian security forces in an “encounter” in Panchalthan following the massacre of 35 Sikhs in Chattisinghpora in Kashmir Valley in March 2000, were in fact civilians and not “foreign militants” as claimed by the forces. In the light of this finding, it is worthwhile to re-examine the mystery of the Chattisinghpora massacre and the possible reasons behind this subterfuge by the Indian forces. The series of unexplained killings by unidentified gunmen where no militant outfit has claimed responsibility, could very well have been engineered by India.
The set of events following the Sikh massacre highlight the ruthlessness and possible subterfuge by the Indian forces.
Subsequently, five “terrorists” were liquidated by the Indian forces and identified as “foreign militants” responsible for the massacre; The bodies were quickly buried without a post-mortem; Clothes and personal items were left burning near the burial site.
Curiously, around the same time, seventeen Muslims had strangely gone missing from the villages around Chattisinghpora, some of them kidnapped by armed men before witnesses; Soon, the relatives of the missing men identified the half-burnt personal items at Panchalthan as belonging to their relatives.
The relatives of the five murdered villagers held a series of demonstrations for public exhuming of the bodies; A crowd of five thousand unarmed civilians at Brakpora was fired upon by the police; Nine more men died; When the bodies were finally exhumed, they were discovered to have been burnt and defaced, but curiously dressed in brand new army fatigues (Under their Uniforms, They were in ordinary civilian clothes) . They were identified by the relatives as the local villagers who went missing. Initial attempts in DNA testing of the exhumed bodies were compromised by fudging of the DNA samples in a cover-up attempt by the authorities; The latest results indicate that the five persons killed by the Indian forces were indeed civilians and that Indian forces engaged in a deliberate subterfuge to portray them as “foreign” militants responsible for the Sikh massacre.
The Pandian Commission investigated the firing at Brakpora and pronounced that three police officers be tried for murder, however no action has been taken against them till date; No judicial inquiry into the Sikh massacre itself has been conducted till date despite repeated announcements.
Based on the above information, there is good reason to suspect that Indian forces may have had something to hide about the Chattisinghpora massacre and hence killed innocent villagers at Panchalthan and made them scapegoats..