“We had completely lost hope for justice the day the Supreme Court dismissed the CBI’s case and granted the Army the option of court martial. Still we appeared before the Army court to record our statements so that they don’t get an excuse to close the case. From day one, we knew it was a fixed match,” said Abdul Rashid Khan whose father Juma Khan was among the five civilians killed in a ‘fake encounter’ at Pathribal on March 25, 2000.
Abdul Rashid’s brother Mohammad Rafeeq was among the eight demonstrators gunned down by the men of the Special Operations Group (SOG) at Brakpora in the district headquarters of Anantnag, when a multitude of people from Shangas and Achhabal was demanding exhumation and identification of the five bodies buried at Wuzkhah. “Two coffins in one week is a tragedy that shattered our family completely.”
“From day one, the Army conveniently reduced the Supreme Court to a wild joke. It set up the court at Nagrota, in Jammu, to ensure that nobody from Kashmir appears for recording the statement. When the Army drew flak from several quarters, it said it would meet the witnesses at Awantipore [headquarters of the Victor Force division]. Through the media and other channels, we begged for the police protection and the assistance of counsel. Our appeals fell on the deaf ears. Even a vehicle was denied to us. Out of a donation, we hired a Tata Sumo [taxi]. Our statements were recorded for one day. The next day, we were subjected to cross-examination,” Mr Rashid told The Hindu on Monday at his nondescript house in a snowbound neighbourhood, 20 km from Anantnag.
“During the cross-examination, they asked us if we could identify the men who had kidnapped the five civilians. We replied that it was impossible after 14 years. Besides, they had their faces covered with mufflers; it was pitch dark and late night; and, those days we didn’t have digital cameras and cellphones. Thereupon, they said the case stands dismissed,” Mr. Rashid said.
Do they have any plan to still pursue their case? “What case? Who’s above the Supreme Court? Their own CBI investigated the case for five years and called it the cold blooded murder of five innocent civilians? We are left with no faith in their system. The Supreme Court is theirs. The Prime Minister is theirs, The President is theirs. And, they are all on the Army’s side. Who’ll give us justice?” Mr Rashid said. “Martyrdom of 8 Brakpora demonstrators has failed to wake up their conscience. They have buried the CBI’s eye-opener. What’ll we get from a dharna or an appeal to the Prime Minister?”
“All hues of politicians have failed us. What should we expect from a Chief Minister who didn’t provide us a counsel or two police guards? Even the Hurriyat Conference and the Bar Association have failed us. They ran their politics on the Pathribal innocent blood for 14 years. We are not going to provide them another platform for the next 14 years,” Mr. Rashid said in a bitter reaction to the mainstream and the separatist political leaders’ statements after the Army exonerated its five officers and declared to have closed the matter last week.