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12 Years on: The Massacres of Chattisinghpora and Pathribal and India’s State-Terrorism

On the eve of the then US President Bill Clinton’s visit to India in March 2000, armed militants entered the village of Chittisinghpura in Jammu and Kashmir, lined up the the local Sikh residents of the village in front of their Gurdwaras, and opened fire. 36 people were killed.

Five days after the events at Chattisinghpora, on March 25th Indian security forces killed five men in Pathribal village of Anantnag district, claiming that the militants were ‘Pakistani’ and belonged to the feared ‘Lashkar-e-Taiba’, a Kashmiri militant group fighting the illegal Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.

Official reports claimed that security forces had, after a gun fight, blown up the hut where the men were hiding, and had retrieved five bodies that had been charred beyond recognition. The bodies were buried separately without any postmortem examination. Two Pakistani citizens were also arrested and paraded to the world media as the perpetrators of the massacre.

Local observers and political activists doubted the Indian government’s official reports however, pointing out that if there had been a gunfight, some of the security force personnel would have sustained injuries – but none were injured. Over the following days, local villagers began to protest, claiming that the men were ordinary civilians who had been killed in a fake encounter, not ‘foreign militants.’ According to them, up to 17 men had been detained by the police and ‘disappeared’ between 21–24 March. Indian government ignored these protests and the media continued pointing the finger towards Pakistan.

Last week, 12 years after the massacres, the Indian investigators told the Supreme Court of India that the fake encounter at Pathribal in Jammu and Kashmir in which seven people were killed by Army personnel were ‘cold-blooded murders’ and the accused officials deserve to be meted out exemplary punishment.

State-Sanctioned Murder

The Indian security forces say that its personnel are protected from prosecution under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

The AFSPA, the only judicial act of its kind in the world, provides blanket immunity to Indian armed forces personnel facing charges of murder, rape and other crimes committed against the people of Occupied Kashmir.

Many Kashmiris have taken up arms against the state in recent years in protest to this savage law, as Indian forces have continued to ruthlessly attempt to subdue the insurgency by carrying out extra judicial killings, kidnappings, and rape and torture of Kashmiri women.

The Chattisingpora massacre was designed to coincide with the visit of Bill Clinton to India, and provided India with an opportune moment to paint Pakistan as a state sponsor of terror. Ironically though, it is Bill Clinton who has repeatedly refused, both in his biographies and in subsequent interviews, to acknowledge the Indian official story and its accusation that Pakistan was behind the massacre.

The two Pakistani citizens Mohammad Sohail and Wasim Ahmad, who were arrested by the Indian security forces in December 2000, were finally set free by a Delhi court last year after no evidence was provided of their involvement in the massacre. Locked up and tortured for 12 years for a crime they did not commit, both these Pakistanis alongwith the hundreds of thousands of innocent Kashmiris who have suffered the brutality of Indian state terrorism over the last few decades, quietly await India’s comeuppance.

Kashmiri Sikhs Demand Fresh Investigations

Last year a Kashmiri Sikh body demanded a fresh probe into the Chittisinghpura massacre in which 36 members of the minority community were massacred by unidentified gunmen in March 2000.

“For the last 11 years, we are demanding an inquiry into Chitisinghpora, but till now no inquiry has been ordered,” All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) chairman Jagmohan Singh Raina told reporters here today.

The Sikh body, in a show of support to Kashmiri Muslims who have also bore the brunt of Indian security forces’ brutality over the last few decades, said they will remain with the majority muslim community and protest all the innocents civilians at killed at the hands of the Indian security forces.

“We are all Kashmiris, do not think us separate. Whatever majority decides here we are with them,” he said.