Inquiry Into The Chithi Singhpora Massacre

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Team Observations: All the facts ascertained by the team indicate that the killers were not members of the security forces. Dress, language, handling of weapons and behaviour in general discounts the security forces. That they were "militants" can also be ruled out because it is general knowledge that militants guard their weapons most carefully and would not visit a location repeatedly knowing that an RR post is located 3-4 kms away. The finger, therefore, points towards the so-called Counter Insurgents/Renegades (Surrendered militants). The description the villagers, in fact, corroborates this assessment.

The fact that the RR Unit was located close to Chithi Singhpora, and the statement of Principal Ranjit Singh and teacher Niranjan Singh clearly indicated that the security forces knew fully well about the identity of the visitors to Chithi Singhpora and did nothing about it.

The statements of various individuals in Anantnag/Srinagar tallies with what the villagers narrated to the team. One man, Karamjit Singh spoke a different language. He stressed, in his statement, that the killers were militants. Secondly, his various actions indicate that he had an inkling that some force had come to kill on March 20, evening. His escape was miraculous, in spite of his being addressed directly by the so-called CO not to go home. He still escaped. In our opinion, Karamjit appears to have been in some contact with the security forces. His migration to Jammu and his nervousness during the team’s meeting with him clearly point to this.

The State Chief Minister, Farooq Abdulla had asked for a Judicial enquiry into the Chithi Singhpora killings by a sitting Supreme Court Judge. Instead, the Centre has ordered a judicial enquiry by Justice Pandhian into the Pathribal killings of five civilians and police firing at Brakpora. The Chithi Singhpora killings are to be probed by the Additional Judicial Magistrate only. This clearly indicates that the truth behind the Chithi Singhpora incident is not being allowed to surface.

All efforts should be made to normalise the situation and bring the Sikhs back into the mainstream in the State.

The team feels that Law and Order being a State subject, the handling and allotment of tasks to the Counter-Insurgency Force was done by the state authorities under the aegis of the Director General of Police. Events as they unfolded clearly indicate that this force was misutilised for criminal acts outside the parameters of law. Here we have support from the publication Amnesty International (Embargoed for February 22, 1999) An extract from the same (Page 26, Column 2) is reproduced here.

"........Only three months earlier, Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah was quoted as saying that the Jammu and Kashmir state police and the Punjab police had achieved excellence in fighting terrorism and they could be trusted in the proxy war-like situation facing the state. The reference to Punjab police was no chance remark as the Director General of Police appointed in February 1997 had served for many years in counter-insurgency operations in Punjab where high levels of human rights violations had been reported. The Jammu and Kashmir state police have shown a disturbing disregard for the rule of law in their expanding counter-insurgency operations, leading to increasing allegations of arbitrary arrests, torture, killings and ‘disappearance’ perpetrated by police officers themselves and reports of their connivance in abuses committed by other agencies such as the renegades. It is also shown in the way police have obstructed victims ’and victims’ families ‘access to redress’.

We feel that a Central Agency directed this operation without the knowledge of the State Chief Minister and his Cabinet. This, therefore, is an act that needs to be condemned and a high level probe ordered to punish the guilty.

The Sikh soldiers have been used disproportionately in Nagaland. Assam, Sri Lanka and all along in Kashmir. This tends to endanger the amity existing between the minority and local majority community. This has special reference to the good relations existing between the majority Kashmiri Muslims and the minority Kashmiri Sikhs in J&K.

It is our considered opinion that Pakistan had nothing to gain by ordering militants/ mercenaries to massacre Sikhs in the Kashmir valley. Pakistan had steered clear of this kind of act during the past 10-15 years of militancy in J&K.

J&K militants too had nothing to gain from such an incident.

Indian leaders however gained substantial mileage from this incident as a spate of international sympathy was forthcoming. In fact President Clinton was joined by a number of others in decrying terrorism and killing of civilians in Kashmir. Union Home Minister Advani in one of his speeches was quoted as saying that three events had brought a turn around in International opinion in India’s favour. He mentioned Kargil, the hijacking of the Indian plane and Chithi Singhpora incident.

Recommendations: The Chithi Singhpora killings resulted in a major tragedy for the Sikh community in J&K. It was a traumatic event which had national and international ramifications. The killers have yet to be identified by the state and national authorities. It is therefore, very vital to discount various rumors and conjectures making the rounds. The team recommends that :

i. The Chithi Singhpora killings be investigated by the United Nations Human Rights Commission as these killings are symptomatic of killings that have taken places in various parts of India during counter-insurgency operations. Once the culprits are identified they should be dealt with speedily in accordance with the law.

ii. Compensation to the given to the victims of the killings at Chithi Singhpora,. Pathrihal, Brakpora and other related incidents, should be Rupees 10 Lakhs, as recommended to be given to victims of ‘custodial killings’ by the Indian NHRC, along with allied benefits.

iii. Inspite of assistance by the majority Kashmiri Muslims and security measures taken by the Centre and state government, some Sikh families still feel insecure and desire to migrate. In case they do so they should be provided with adequate facilities at least equal to that provided to the migrating Kashmiri Pandits and their families.

iv. The Chithi Singhpora killings put a question mark on the employment of "surrendered militants" as a viable counter-insurgency force. This force consists of individuals who have changed loyalties for material benefits. Their misuse of arms and exploitation of the situation for personal gain has been highlighted by the media repeatedly. We strongly recommend that this force be disbanded forthwith. Surrendered militants should be absorbed into mainstream of civil life rather than be employed in the counter-insurgency role.


Reference

By Justice (Retd.) Ajit Singh Bahns, Inderjit Singh Jaijee & Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Kartar Singh Gill