The army on Wednesday ordered court martial proceedings against two officers and four soldiers charged with killing three youths in a fake gunfight in 2010 in Machil, which sparked off two-month-long anti-India protests in the Kashmir valley.
On April 30, 2010, the army claimed killing three Pakistani militants in Machchil along the Line of Control in the valley. It turned out the deceased—Mohammad Shafi, Shehzad Ahmed and Riyaz Ahmed— were local civilians and residents of Baramulla district.
After their families filed a missing report, police investigation revealed Territorial Army jawan Abbas Shah and two counterinsurgents, Bashir Ahmad Lone and Fayaz, had promised the deceased jobs in the army and arranged their meeting with the accused officers.
The bodies of the killed civilians were exhumed on May 28, 2010.
All militants carry monetary rewards on their head. In case the militants are non-Kashmiris, the prize money is more. Their killing also increases the chances of promotion.
Colonel DK Pathania, then commanding officer of 4 Rajput Regiment, major Upinder and the four soldiers, who will face court martial, are learnt to have been motivated by money and promotions when they allegedly killed the trio in the upper reaches of the mountainous region.
Machil killings, followed by the death of a 14-year-old school student, Tufail Ahmad Mattoo, in police firing two months later, triggered a massive wave of anti-India protests.
More than 120 protesters, most of them teenagers, were shot dead by the police during these protests, which many observers believe ended up further alienating the generation of youth born after the 1990, the year the raging insurgency peaked.
An army spokesman of the Jammu-based Northern Command told PTI, "After a detailed and exhaustive inquiry into the incident and any
wrongdoing by the personnel concerned, the army ordered court martial proceedings, highlighting the army’s resolve of ensuring justice with speed."
A court of inquiry, headed by Major General GS Sangah, who was a brigadier of 68 Mountain Division in 2010, has ascertained the role of the accused and ordered court martial.
The police had named an army colonel, two majors, five soldiers, one Territorial Army jawan and two civilians as accused in its charge sheet filed before a chief judicial magistrate in 2010.
However, the army didn’t hand over the accused to the police and moved an application before the CJM, Sopore, asking for court martial proceeding in the case.
The CJM rejected the court martial option for the accused army personnel.
The army had invoked the Army Act to seek transfer of the encounter case from a criminal court to court martial on the grounds that the accused army personnel were on active duty and discretion lies with the army for initiating proceedings before any court.
It seemed the state government acquiesced to the army’s request for court martial proceedings by not filing an objection in the court.