By Prof. A. C. Bose
The first question that crossed my mind, on hearing of the Chattisingpura massacre, was, who did it, and why. It might have been perpetrated by those who wanted to let Clinton know that Kashmir was burning and was crying for his mediation. This possibility cannot be ruled out. However, it is widely believed - and officially claimed - that the militants operation in our state dance to the tune set by their mentors across the border. We always refer to the proxy war, Pak-sponsored terrorism, and foreign mercenaries belonging to Laskar-e-Toiba or the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and so on, with their bases in Pakistan. So, the most likely presumption is that the Pak authorities - maybe the ISI or any other agency - ordered the killing. But, why should they choose that particular moment to convince Clinton of the seriousness of the cross-border terrorism of which Pakistan, in the words of Madeline Albright, is a conduit pipe. Reports suggest that it was mainly after this gory incident that Clinton, in consultation with Mrs. Albright and Stanley Berger, decided to be rather tough and candid with his Pakistani hosts. This likely fall-out of their folly could not have escaped the mental radar of the mentors of these militants. Besides, through this one act of cruelty, they have knowingly antagonised a very well-knit and powerful community and have brought them closer to all who are virulently opposed to their aspirations. Knowing how the Pak authorities had once used the disgruntled Sikhs, and are doing so even now with less success - against the Indian state and the Hindu community, it must have been sheer stupidity on their part to antagonise the entire Sikh community at one stroke. No one, so far, has accused the ISI and their ilk of naiveté or inefficiency. So, people started asking themselves, who might have done it - and why.
The answer, though not very satisfactory, has been provided by Azmat Khan, the JKLF General Secretary for the UK and Europe, who told the Dawn of Karachi that a five-member delegation of theirs had met the State Deptt. officials at Washington, on the 10th of March to appraise them of the possibility of the Indian authorities indulging in something "to malign the Kashmiri freedom fighters and to implicate Pakistan in it", during Clinton’s visit to India. He also adds, "We are naturally worried as to why the U.S. State Deptt. apparently did not act to find out what actually the JKLF delegation had told them on 10 March. The suggestion that our own official agencies might have been responsible for the killing is revolting, to say the least. But one with an open mind just cannot foreclose such a grim possibility. Security agencies all over the world are known to have committed mind-boggling crimes to get certain things done and then to hide the evidences. The Nazis set their Reichstag on fire to defame the communists; a fake attempt was made on the life of Sanjay Gandhi on the eve of the General elections of 1977, and now there are evidences to indicate the involvement of the Russian police in the serial bombings in 1999 to defame the Chechens and to justify an all-out attack on their freedom. So, the involvement of certain official agencies, especially of the renegades, in this gruesome massacre, though shameful, cannot be ruled out. It needs a probe.
Let us see what happened shortly after the massacre of the Sikhs. It was, again, the usual story. Whenever the police is under severe departmental pressure to live down its reputation and to apprehend the guilty, one hears of its success in eliminating some of the alleged accomplices in encounters. None of them anywhere has been arrested and brought to trial; they are always surrounded, challenged and then killed in self-defence. So, how do we establish that those killed were actually involved in a particular killing that might have taken place earlier. No one in darkness has recognised the killers and so there is hardly any room for identification, so, claims are made, and are reported unchecked. This time, however, additional precautions had been taken, it appears. Five alleged criminals of the Chattisingpura massacre were killed in a nearby village and their bodies were found charred beyond recognition and were soon buried. Their co-villagers claim that, on that very day, five among them had been picked up and have not been seen since then. They, obviously, fear that their five innocent neighbours must have been killed to enable the police to hide their failure or the truth, whatever it may be. What they fear and now assert may be revolting, but nothing very unusual. After all, whether in Kashmir, or in Punjab, or in the bloody north-east, thousands have been killed in encounters; so why could it not happen in Awantipura now? Over a couple of decades ago, when a special anti-dacoity drive was initiated in the eastern districts of U.P., many able-bodies farmers there soon went missing. So, the campaign was called off. The record of the West Bengal police during their flight against Naxalism was no better. So, it may be that one criminal act led to another - to set the record straight.
However, the worst was yet to follow. Shocked over the sudden disappearance of their relatives and neighbours, the people of the concerned villages came out in the streets and wanted to meet the district authorities to hand over to them their demand for an impartial enquiry and to seek their sympathies in the hour of their distress. This is a legitimate demand in any democratic society. No one has so far asserted that they were carrying arms or had fired upon the security personnel. But, it is a fact, that they were stopped half way and, following some abusive altercations, the processionists were showered with bullets, which left seven killed on the spot and nearly a couple of dozen seriously injured. From all accounts, it was an act of over-reaction that cost so many lives, destroyed so many families, and weakened still further the moral foundation of the Indian State. Why treat the area as a war-zone? After, all, we are not waging a war against the local population. If the Indian state is fighting a war, then it is for these very people, and must be fought along with these people. The rusty and rejected methods of fake encounters and custodial deaths have not brought peace in any corner of the country. Only a few days ago, the C.M. of U.P. admitted that, at least, four cases of fake encounters did take place in his state, in the last two years. One can then imagine how many might have taken place, which have not been proved. Still, the crime situation in U.P. has not improved. As Justice J.S. Verma, Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, has warned us: "state terrorism is no cure of terrorism". One hopes the enquiry that is going to be initiated into the latest act of butchery will go into all that has happened on the eve of - and since- the Chattisingpura massacre, and the skeletons in our cupboards are brought out in the open.