Did The Army Kill Their Own?

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On 20 April 2004 Subedar N.K.Baswas of the 18 RR Camp lodged a written report in Lalpora Police Station to the effect that on 20 April 2004 the said unit received specific information about the movement of ‘terrorists’ in the general area of Markul.

Two officers and other personnel of the 18 RR laid an ambush in the general area of Mark Dever. There was cross fire. Two ‘terrorists’ were killed. In this connection, First Information Report [FIR] no. 21/2004 u/s 307 [Attempt to murder]Ranbir Penal Code, 1989 [RPC] and 7 [Prohibition of acquisition / possession / manufacture / sale of prohibited arms / ammunition] / 25 [Punishment for certain offences] Arms Act, 1959was filed at the Lalpora Police Station.

In June 2004 some persons of Waliwar, Ganderbal approached the District Magistrate, Kupwara for the disinternment of the dead bodies. This was ordered to be done on 22 June 2004. On 23 June 2004 the bodies were exhumed and handed over to the applicants: Noor Mohammad Shah, son of Mohammad Yousuf, resident of Waliwar, Ganderbal and Syed Mustafa, son of Pir Mohammad Ayoub Shah, resident of Waliwar, Ganderbal who took the bodies to their native village Waliwar, Ganderbal and buried them in their ancestral graveyard.

On 2 October 2005, Madan Lal (father of Bushan Lal) filed a written report in the Lalpora Police Station that the people killed were common labourers taken from Jammu to Lolab, Kupwara. He had come to Kashmir after he received an anonymous letter informing him that his son, Bhushan Lal and his three colleagues (Satpaul, Ram Lal & Ashok Kumar) were killed by the Army in fake encounters. Later, he learnt that the victims had been killed and buried at Lalpora. An FIR no.69/2005 u/s 364 [Kidnapping/Abducting to murder], 302 [Murder]Ranbir Penal Code, 1989 [RPC] was filed at the Lalpora Police Station. An investigation was taken up. The Investigating Officer recorded statements. In order to ascertain the veracity of both FIRs, as the exhumed bodies were beyond recognition, DNA testing was to be done. The District Magistrate, Srinagar was approached to facilitate the exhumation. Ultimately, a team reached Srinagar on 25 July 2006 and proceeded to Ganderbal. The locals protested the exhumation on religious grounds. The exhumation could not be done.

Correspondence was also made to the 18 RR to furnish the nominal roll of the ambush party who were deputed to Markul Dever on 20 April 2004. But they did not cooperate. Information on both FIR’s was sought through the Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act, 2009 [RTI] on 7 October 2011. By communication dated 6 January 2012 from the Jammu and Kashmir Police, copies of the FIR’s were provided and information was provided that investigations were ongoing.

A crucial factor in this case, was the role of Shaurya Chakra awardee Captain Sumit Kohli, who was going to speak out regarding the fake encounter of the victim and was subsequently found dead. Army claimed he committed suicide, while as his family believes he was murdered. It appears that he was the one who had sent the anonymous letter to the family of the victims about the fake encounter. The letter names a Colonel and Major Vijay Chahar, 18 Rashtriya Rifles [RR], Army as being responsible for the encounter. Bhushal Lal’s father said when he had come to Kashmir to find more about the death of his son, he had came across Captain Sumit Kohli who told him “the person who wrote the letter to you will make sure you get justice”. The family of the victim also believes this letter was sent by Captain Kohli.

He was a brave soldier. If they are saying it was an AK-47 shot then how can someone’s throat and tongue remain intact if he shoots himself in the throat? How can there be no multiple fractures? There was a three-inch gash in his neck. We received nothing in writing from the Army about the cause of Sumit’s death, said his family.

On the same day, 20 April 2004, on which this fake encounter was carried, few hours before, in the same locality an IED blast was carried out on a team of human rights activists monitoring the parliamentary elections of 2004. Human rights defender Aasia Jeeani alongwith the driver of the vehicle were killed. Based on the revelations and research conducted in the above-mentioned fake encounter, it appears that there is a connection between the attack on human rights defenders and this particular fake encounter; the fake encounter was an attempt to pass off the blame of the attack on human rights team on the four victims.

The death of Captain Sumit Kohli, who appears to be the whistle blower in this case, has never been investigated despite repeated appeals by his family. The police have so far failed in carrying out investigations in the fake encounter case; attack on human rights defenders and also in the death of Sumit Kohli. The family of the victims filed a petition before the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir. Despite the passage of thirteen years, the status of investigations of the Jammu and Kashmir Police is unclear. Further, it appears quite likely that no investigations would have been carried out in relation to the letter of Captain Kohli. By not carrying out a comprehensive and speedy investigation, the Jammu and Kashmir Police have clearly allowed the perpetrators of the crime to avoid justice. The Ministry of Defence seems to have cared very little about the Jammu and Kashmir Police investigations or in instituting a process for delivering justice.

The available documents do not suggest that even a Court-Martial was conducted in this case by the army.

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