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HindustanTimes Wed,20 Aug 2014

Jammu

Pathribal case: Omar, victims' families 'disappointed'
Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times
Srinagar, January 24, 2014
First Published: 17:09 IST(24/1/2014)
Last Updated: 18:56 IST(24/1/2014)

Utharasul Bari Angan, a small hamlet nearly 10 km from Pathribal, where five villagers were killed by the Army in 2000, is mourning their deaths again.


Two villagers, both named Jumma Khan, one a 45-year-old labourer, the other a 50-year-old shepherd, were among the five killed that day.

Villagers have expressed the feeling that they have not been given justice, after the Army closed an investigation against its personnel accused of killing the five civilians, saying that there was "no evidence against them".

Saqoor Khan, the shepherd's son, said his house has been in mourning since the news of the case's closure came in. "I feel like my father has died again today," he said.

The other Jumma Khan's son Rashid Khan said the decision "did not surprise" him. "The Supreme Court had accepted that the five men were killed without reason, and the CBI findings confirmed it. If that did not matter to the Army, what else could," he said.

In a statement issued on Thursday night, the Army's Udhampur-based spokesman had said, "The evidence recorded could not establish a prime facie case against any of the accused. However, it was clearly established that it was a joint operation by the police and the Army, based on specific intelligence."

The Army's decision has been slammed by Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, who has asked his government to explore a legal response. Omar said he was "extremely disappointed and the Army needed to take a long, hard look at the signal they want to send out in Kashmir".

Writing on the micro-blogging website Twitter, he said, "Extremely disappointed with the decision of the army reg Pathribal. Will ask the Law Dept & Advocate General to examine options. A matter as serious as Pathribal can't be closed or wished away like this more so with the findings of the CBI so self evident. [sic]"

According to the families of both victims, who live one km apart, the men were taken by the Army in a midnight raid but never returned. "The Army told us that the men were being taken to show the way through the jungle," Rashid Khan alleged.

"One of our relatives who lived in Pathribal saw the bodies when they were brought in for burial. That is how we got to know that they had been killed," Saqoor said.

In January, 2013, the families of the five victims had decided not to present themselves before the Army's court, saying "they were tired, poor and feared for their lives". The families, however, later deposed when the court martial proceedings were shifted to Kashmir's Awantipora in June, 2013.

"We went and took our mothers and some witnesses and recorded our statements. We told the Army whatever we knew and what happened that day, but to no avail," alleged Rashid Khan. The families had earlier received notices from the Army to depose on January 28, 2013, in Jammu's Nagrota. After their refusal, the proceedings were shifted to Kashmir.

"The whole world knows what happened. We identified the bodies, gave samples for DNA testing, and everything proved that we were right, but we never got justice," Saqoor added.
 
"No matter how many times the case is reopened, justice will never be delivered," said Rashid.
Five people were killed in a shootout at Pathribal in south Kashmir on March 26, 2000. While the Army had claimed that those shot dead were militants, they were identified as innocent civilians when their bodies were exhumed after massive outrage and protests.

The Army had claimed that those killed were foreign militants, who had massacred 35 members of the Sikh community at Chittisinghpora in south Kashmir in 2000 while the-then US President Bill Clinton was on a visit to India.

A CBI probe in 2006 said five officials and jawans of the Seven Rashtriya Rifles killed five civilians and called them mercenaries.


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