All the five victim families of the infamous Pathribal fake encounter in south Kashmir have decided not to present themselves before the army's court martial for any statements, saying "they are tired, poor and fear for their lives now."
On January 14, all the five victim families received summon notices from the army to present themselves before the court martial on January 28 at Nagrota, which is around 300 km from their village.
"We have decided not to go to Nagrota (in the Jammu region). After 12 years of the case, we are being asked again to depose. What new things can we add now? Whatever we had to say we said before the Anantnag chief judicial magistrate in 2000," said Rashid Khan (36), whose father Juma Khan was among the five victims.
In 2000, immediately after 35 Sikhs, were killed in south Kashmir's Chattisinghpora area by unidentified gunmen, the army claimed to make a breakthrough in the case by killing five "militants". Later, the five killed militants turned out to be civilians from local villages.
The urge among victim families to get justice is fast dissipating. "We are very poor families and cannot afford to go to Nagrota. We fear for our lives. We think we will not come alive from Nagrota. Our relatives were killed in broad daylight and passed of as militants. What is the guarantee that our lives are safe?" asked Khan adding, "We don't think justice is possible now".
Pathribal village is 40 km from Anantnag district and the victims will have to travel around 300 km to depose before the army.
In June 2012, a Srinagar court allowed general court martial proceedings against the five army officers facing charges in the killing. The court direction came after the Supreme Court on May 1, 2012 asked the army to opt for an option, "either to prosecute the five soldiers in a military court or a civil court within two months".
The five army men, identified by the CBI for having a role in the killings, were Brigadier Ajay Saxena, Lt Col Brajendra Pratap Singh, Major Sourabh Sharma, Major Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan.
The CBI charge-sheeted the army men in 2006 for "killing five civilians and later dubbing them as foreign militants".
Hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani has also taken exception to the army's move to call the victim families to Jammu region.
The Hurriyat spokesman asked why the army insisted to investigate the case in Jammu when killings took place at Pathribal in south Kashmir.
"Any inquiry by the army is no way reliable or trustworthy. Legal heirs of the victims should demand impartial investigation and disassociate from the trial," said Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar.
TIME LINE OF THE CASE
March 20, 2000: On eve of former US president Bill Clinton's visit to India in March 2000, 35 Sikhs massacred by unknown gunmen.
March 25, 2000: Army claims killing seven foreign LeT militants in Pathribal involved in the incident.
April 3, 2000: Security forces open fire on protesters, killing seven at Brakpora
October 31, 2000: Justice Pandian committee was asked to investigate Pathribal and Barkpora killings.
April 6, 2002: DNA profiling confirms the killed persons were civilians
In 2007, the SC stayed high court proceedings on an army plea that it can't prosecute without permission from the Centre
March 2012: CBI told the SC it was a cold-blooded murder and no sanction was required to prosecute the army personnel
May 1, 2012: Supreme Court asks the army either to opt for civil court prsecution or try in the army court