April 2000 News

Massacre continues to haunt Anantnag

9 April 2000
Hindustan Times
Arun Joshi

Anantnag: Why did it happen to us''. The people here direct this question to the visiting journalists as this south Kashmir district grapples with the shock of mourning for the past three weeks. Nazir Ahmad''s eyes are swollen. His brother Zahoor went missing on March 23 and on April 6 he discovered his clothes in a grave. Next day he brought home a charred body that was beyond recognition. The whole town joined him on the midnight to bury the dead. That was a clear defiance of the curfew. The people were mourning the dead in Momminabad on the outskirts here on Friday night as were the villagers in Hallan and Brari Angan. The question was same: ''why did it happen to us.'' Though officially the real identity of the bodies depends on the outcome of the DNA tests, the townsfolk here are convinced that these were the missing villagers who were exhumed from the graves where they were buried on March 25 following what security forces claimed was a fierce encounter with militants. Abu Mahas, one of the prominent militants who was claimed killed in encounter and buried, himself went to the people a day later and asked them: ''why did you buy me, when I am alive''. That was the spark that triggered demonstrations with people suspecting that civilians were killed and buried by the security forces. The police do not agree with this version. But they concede that there is a prima facie case that a crime has been committed. The police officers are unable to say anything officially, but the report that they a are preparing to submit to the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate here tomorrow endorses the public perception. ''Law will take its course'', G. A, Peer, new Deputy Commissioner of this district, said while refusing to comment on the likely contents of the report. He also refused to speculate as to what would be the likely directions of the court. ''We will abide by the directions of the court and do the needful''. The inquiry officer, Mr. Rehman Sheikh, Deputy Superintendent of Police headquarters, refused to say anything. ''Sorry , I cannot tell you anything,'' he says attempting to be as polite as is possible for an officer who has been working for the past week trekking mountains, supervising exhumation of bodies and now preparing the report which should stand the legal security. What is confronting the police here is the crisis of credibility. ''Our word is not trusted by the people here,'' said a middle the rung police officer here. So many things have that the police find that overlapping of events has shaken its credibility. First, it was the massacre of 35 Sikhs in Chitti Singhpora followed by an encounter in Pathribal where five persons were killed, who now in the public perception were the ordinary villagers and not even remotely connected to militancy. The protests followed by the relatives and fellow villages of the missing people and the firing on one such proecession that left eight persons dead. The investigating police officers are not getting co-operation from the people.


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