Utharasul Bari Angan, a hamlet 10 km from Pathribal, where five villagers were allegedly killed in cold blood by the army on March 26, 2000, is in mourning again. On Friday, the army closed the case citing lack of evidence, drawing severe criticism from chief minister Omar Abdullah.
The case had hit the headlines, with five army personnel being indicted by the CBI in 2006, and became examples cited by the proponents for the withdrawal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The innocent civilians were branded terrorists who had massacred 35 Sikhs at Chittisinghpora days before.
“I feel as if my father died again today,” said Saqoor Khan, son of 50-year-old shepherd Jumma Khan, who had been one of the victims. Rashid Khan, son of another victim — a 45-year-old labourer who was also called Jumma Khan — said the decision did not surprise him. “The SC accepted that the five were killed for no fault of theirs. CBI findings revealed the same. If that did not matter to the army, what else could?’’ he said.
The army, which had recently ordered a court martial into the Machchil encounter case, said in case of Pathribal, the evidence recorded “could not establish a prima facie case” against any of the accused.
“It was, however, clearly established that it was a joint operation by the police and the army based on specific intelligence,” said an army spokesman on Thursday.
Abdullah said the army needs to take a “long, hard look at the signal they want to send out in Kashmir”.
“Will ask the law department and advocate general to examine options. This matter can’t be closed or wished away like this, more so with the findings of the CBI,” Abdullah tweeted.