India Intelligence Report

   Legal Dilemma on Handling Kashmir Massacre Accused


The Army is considering various options to try 5 officers, including a Brigadier, for the alleged murder of 5 Kashmiri civilians suspected of being foreign terrorists involved in the massacre of 36 Sikhs at Chattingsphora village in Kashmir on Mar 20, 2000. Five Pakistani terrorists swooped down hours before the arrival of US President Bill Clinton and massacred 26 Sikh civilians to make a point and provoke an armed response.

Soon after, a cordon and search operation was launched by a joint force of Army and Kashmir police which 5 individuals and labeled them terrorists. There was much fanfare, appreciation, and eulogy for catching the criminals. Subsequent investigations accused the Army and police of faking the encounter and that those killed were civilians.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was called in to investigate the case which implicated the Army while exonerating the Kashmiri police. While filing its case, the district magistrate gave the Army the option of organizing a court martial to determine the outcome. The Indian Constitution allows the security forces to deal with their legal issues themselves outside the ambit of the civil administration.

However, that option may be hard as the case is with a civilian body, involves civilians, and in cooperation with a civilian body. The Army says that it has to rely on CBI reports to go forward with its court martial and says that is something that it cannot accept. Further, sources in the Army also say that the security forces acted on specific inputs from the police and intelligence officials and wonder why they are being accused of something when the civilian body was part of the operation and provided the targets.

In many cases, the Army has increasingly found itself to be the fall guy as issues are being politicized. This is not to say that excesses have not happened and that Army is above human rights violations. While that was largely cited in early 90s, the National Human Rights Council (NHRC), the Army’s own Human Rights Cell, and State Human Rights Council (SHRC) have kept the security forces honest.

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