Why justice eludes the victims of Pathribal fake encounter?

Why justice eludes the victims of Pathribal fake encounter?

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Protesters hold signs demanding justice for the deceased. (The Indian Express archive)
Protesters hold signs demanding justice for the deceased. (The Indian Express archive)

With the Supreme Court admitting the plea challenging the army’s decision to exonerate its officers and men accused in the Pathribal fake encounter, relatives of those killed in the encounter hope their 17-year-long struggle for justice will soon come to an end. Earlier the J&K High Court had summarily dismissed a plea of the victim families against the army’s decision. The men were earlier chargesheeted by CBI for abduction and murder of five civilians in a fake encounter and destroying the evidence.

There have been several attempts to derail the probe and obstruct justice ever since the intervening night of March 24 and 25 in 2000, when five villagers were killed and dubbed as foreign militants responsible for the massacre of 36 Sikh villagers in Chittisinghpora on March 20, 2000.

There were three major incidents that shook Kashmir that spring – Chittisinghpora massacre, Pathribal fake encounter and Brakapora killings. So when the army decided to bury the Pathribal fake encounter case in spite of an overwhelming evidence collected by the CBI, it was part of a pattern.

A commission of inquiry led by a retired Supreme Court judge had indicted CRPF and Police with murder in Brakpora killing case that had taken place days after Pathribal fake encounter. Nine protestors, who were killed at Brakpora in Anantnag, were relatives of Pathribal fake encounter victims and were demanding a probe into the fake encounter. Both the State and the Central governments refused to take action against the security officials, who were found involved in the Brakpora killings.

The epicentre of this impunity, however, specifically lies in the way the government didn’t allow a credible probe to find out the real identity of the perpetrators of the Chittisinghpora massacre.

For 17 years, this correspondent has extensively covered the twists and turns of these three incidents that took place within a fortnight. The Chittisinghpora massacre, Pathribal fake encounter and the Brakpora firing on protestors have become symbols of injustice and impunity in Kashmir.

The Chittisinghpora massacre:

On March 20, 2000, while President Bill Clinton arrived on a visit to New Delhi, unidentified gunmen donning army fatigues had lined up 35 Sikh in front of the Gurdwara wall in a remote South Kashmir village and killed them. Though nobody had a proof for the true identity of the killers or their motive, the timing of this brazen act of terror coinciding Clinton’s India tour had already triggered an Indo-Pak blame game. Although New Delhi had vehemently accused militants for this massacre and blamed Pakistan for connivance in this horrible act, Clinton had refrained from blaming anybody in his condemnation. A day after the massacre, the then National Security Advisor (NSA) Brajesh Mishra had said that there was “absolute proof” of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen’s involvement in this massacre. Islamabad, meanwhile, didn’t just deny its role; they blamed the Indian army instead.

On the ground in Kashmir, however, there was a race to solve the mystery behind the identity of the killers, especially before the thenUnion Home Minister L K Advani’s visit to the massacre site, five days later, on March 25, 2000. Hours ahead of Advani’s visit, the army and the J&K police claimed to have solved the case. Senior officers from army and the J&K Police told Advani that the “five Lashkar-e-Toiba mercenaries responsible for the massacre had been eliminated in a surgical operation launched by 7 Rashtriya Rifles and the local police the previous night”. This interaction took place in an open field in Chittisighpora where a special presentation of the “operation” for Advani was organized. This correspondent was also present there.

But even Colonel Ajay Saxena (then Commanding Officer 7 RR) and Deputy Superintendent of Police Tajinder Singh explained the ‘‘operation’’ with the help of an extensive site map to the then Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani and the then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, the veracity of the encounter was already under a cloud of suspicion. And when the army and police officers stood for a group-photograph with Advani, two top police officers present there stayed away. The story of the Pathribal encounter, however, had been carefully crafted, and at the time both J&K and the central government publicly vouched for its authenticity.

Advani, in fact, congratulated the police and army for the operation, saying “the butchers of Chittisinghpora have been eliminated’’. There was an announcement of hefty cash award to the officers of army and police involved in the “operation’’.

The news of the “encounter” had been broken simultaneously in Srinagar and New Delhi. While Zonal Police headquarters Kashmir issued a press statement claiming that five Pakistani Lashkar terrorists responsible for Chittisinghpora massacre have been eliminated in a joint RR-Police operation, the then Union Home Secretary Kamal Pandey gave a similar statement in New Delhi.

The initial claim:

Here is how the army and the police had described the Pathribal encounter as an important anti-terrorist operation: “The police had arrested a Hizbul Mujahideen militant , Mohammad Yaqoob Wagay, from his maternal uncle’s house in a village near Chittisinghpora. Wagay, according to the survivors, had been accompanying the group of 17 to 18 militants wearing army uniform to the village and the survivors had even identified him. It is said a villager, Bittu, who first saw him had even asked him as to what was he doing with the “armymen”. Bittu was then killed to conceal Wagay’s involvement in the massacre.

A joint group of 17 local and foreign militants belonging to Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba had come to Chittisinghpora in the evening of March 20 and taken Wagay along to conduct the massacre. Wagay was working as an activist of the Hizbul Mujahideen for the past one year and had been incharge of a wireless unit in the area. Wagay was arranging food and shelter for the militants in the area that is how the Sikh villagers knew about his militant connections. Wagay has already identified the five local Hizbul Mujahideen militants and six foreigners of the Lashkar. The militants had split into three groups after fleeing the massacre site and one group was hiding in this village which was isolated deep inside Chattergul valley, around 20 km away from Chittisinghpora.

We had been working on Wagay’s leads for the past few days. In fact, he had given us clues of a few possible hideouts. Yesterday afternoon, we received a specific input regarding the presence of one of the militant groups in village Panchalthan in Pathribal area. The village was cordoned off at around 2 am and the first contact was established with the hiding militants at the first light. It was a joint operation of the police and the Rashtriya Rifles and was led by Col. Ajay Saxena. The militants opened fire and in the ensuing encounter that lasted for five hours, all the five militants were killed.”

First cracks in the official account of the Pathribal encounter :

The first cracks in the official account of the Pathribal encounter started emerging soon. Five men had gone missing from villages Brarianagan and Halan in the neighbourhood and Anantnag town. The families of two among these missing men (both named Juma Khan) in Brariangan village had said that army men came to their house in the middle of the night and took them away. The family of Zahoor Ahmad Dalal, a 22-year-old shopkeeper, who went missing from Anantnag town too had said that the army men took him away.

The story behind the Pathribal fake encounter started to unfold when the villagers of Panchalthan talked about the mysterious circumstances in which these five men were killed on Zontengri peak. Contrary to the government claim that there was a five-hour-long gun battle, the villagers had said that these men were killed in cold blood and was passed off as an encounter. Suspicion of foul play was further strengthened by the way the five men had been buried. The army and police officers involved in the ‘‘operation’’ had sought the help of local villagers to speed up the burial. The men were buried in graveyards at Vuzkhah, Sumlam and Chogamm villages, which were miles apart.

There was enough suspicion that the men were killed in a stage-managed encounter at Pathribal and dubbed as foreign militants responsible for the Chittisinghpora massacre may be the five villagers who had gone missing after being picked up by the soldiers. The relatives of the five missing men came out on streets and the protests intensified across Anantnag district, forcing the government to order a judicial enquiry. This did not satisfy the protesters and as they marched towards the deputy commissioner’s office on April 3, 2000, Police and Central Reserve Police Force opened fire and killed nine among them. Some of the killed protesters were close relatives of the five missing villagers.

Exhuming the truth:

Under severe public pressure, the J&K government immediately suspended Senior Superintendent of Police and a Station House Officer besides ordering exhumation of the bodies and a subsequent DNA sampling to ascertain their actual identities.

Three days later, on April 6, 2000 a team of forensic experts from Government Medical College, Srinagar arrived at Pathribal area to exhume the bodies and take samples for DNA tests.

On the day of exhumation, the relatives of the missing men had gathered as the graves were dug up. And before the graves were opened, the relatives had given a list of items like the clothes that the missing men were wearing, a ring on a finger, a watch on another’s wrist. This correspondent was witness to the entire exhumation process.

Nazir Ahmad Dalal, whose nephew Zahoor Ahmad Dalal was among the five missing men had told the officials that Zahoor was wearing a maroon sweater. As the grave was opened, the first thing to come out was a half-burnt maroon sweater.

When the next grave was opened, the body was immediately identified as that of Juma Khan from Brari Angan village. Khan’s widow, Roshan Jan, started crying, as soon as her husband’s body was taken out. She had identified the bearded chin and nose, although Khan’s face was not clearly recognisable. There was another Juma Khan, who was identified by his relatives by the ring he still wore on his finger.

As the exhumation ended and the bodies were buried again, the truth about the Pathribal encounter was already out. The results of the DNA samples were needed only for legal purposes. This apparent movement towards dispensing justice to the five victims of Pathribal fake encounter had calmed tempers. But once the protests subsided, there were fresh attempts to derail the process.

Attempts to derail Pathribal fake encounter probe:

On February 26, 2001, the Hyderabad laboratory wrote to J&K Police, saying that samples supposed to be of a female relative of one of the victim were actually belonged to a male. In another case, samples from a female relative were composed of the blood of two different men. The government concealed the Hyderabad lab’s report for a year. It was only on March 8, 2002, that the then CM Farooq Abdullah made a statement in the J&K assembly, admitting that officials had tampered with the DNA samples.

Meanwhile, Justice S. R. Pandian Commission set up by J&K Government to inquire into the Barakpora firing incident (when police and CRPF opened fire at villagers protesting against the Pathribal fake encounter, killing nine villagers and injuring a dozen others) submitted its report on October 27, 2000. While strongly indicting police and CRPF in “murder of peaceful protestors”, Justice Pandian, who also examined the causes that led to the incident at Brakpora, said that its “direct root causes” were linked to the “faked encounter killings in Pathribal”.

Subsequently, the then Deputy Commissioner (DC) Anantnag acknowledged that Pathribal encounter was fake on April 9, 2001. Quoting the report submitted by J&K Police’s Special Investigating Team, he concluded that the five men (killed in the stage managed encounter) were innocent and ordered grant of Rs 1 lakh as ex gratia relief to next of their kin.

On March 15, 2002, the then CM Farooq Abdullah ordered an inquiry headed by retired High Court Judge G. A. Kuchay and promised that all those found responsible for tampering with evidence would be prosecuted and punished. Dr. Balbir Kaur (of Forensic Medicine department of Government Medical College Srinagar) and five others were suspended, pending the Kuchai Commission report.

Fresh DNA samples were collected and sent for analysis. The J&K Government finally made the report of the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Kolkatta public on July 16, 2002 and it established the truth behind the Pathribal fake encounter. “It has been clearly established that the deceased were not foreign terrorists as claimed by the forces who led the operations, but they were innocent civilians,’’ the report concluded.

On December 12, 2002, G.A. Kuchai Commission submitted its report, indicting the government agencies – forensic team and police – for the fudging of the DNA samples.

The final blow:

The final blow to the government’s credibility came when the Anantnag Police itself exonerated Mohammad Yousuf Wagay alias Chatti Guru after months of investigation. Wagay, a local milkman, was picked up a few days after the Chittisinghpora massacre by the police for allegedly “guiding” the killers to the village. Then Union Home Secretary Kamal Panday had announced his arrest in New Delhi and the Police and Rashtriya Rifles had claimed that based on Wagay’s “leads”, they had killed five Lashkar terrorists responsible for Chittisinghpora massacre at Pathribal. Nine months later, Anantnag Police admitted that the police have no corroborative evidence to chargesheet Wagay and that they have reduced the charge from multiple murders to “trying to breach the peace (CrPC 107/151)’’. The arrest of Wagay alias Chatti Guru was corroborated by the wireless message of the Superintendent of Police (SOG) asking for the whereabouts of Wagay, who had been taken by Dy SP Tajender Singh from the SOG camp to an unknown destination.

Wagay had no militant connection and it was evident that he had been framed to concoct the initial official narrative for both the Chittisinghpora massacre and the Pathribal fake encounter.

This correspondent interviewed Wagay on November, 19, 2000 while he was in preventive custody after his father had requested the police to keep him behind bars for his own safety. ‘‘They (the government) ruined my life and made me a scapegoat because they wanted to show that they have solved the massacre of Sikhs in Chittisinghpora,’’ he had told The Indian Express.

Now that it was established that Wagay was framed, and the five men who had been killed at Pathribal and dubbed as foreign militants were local villagers abducted from their homes, the story of Chittisinghpora massacre had turned murky.

On October 31, 2000, the then CM Farooq Abdullah had announced to set up a judicial commission headed by Justice Pandian to probe Chittsinghpora massacre as well as Pathribal fake encounter. Justice Pandian had already completed an inquiry into Brakpora firing and linked it to Pathribal fake encounter. Abdullah, however, changed his mind within weeks and the judicial commission to unravel the mystery behind Chittisinghpora was never set up. The J&K Government handed over the Pathribal encounter case to CBI in January 2003.

The CBI probe into Pathribal fake encounter:

After years of probe by investigating officer Ashok Kalra, the CBI submitted its chargesheet on May 9, 2006, establishing that the encounter was stage-managed and the five men who had been killed were innocent civilians. The CBI called it a “cold-blooded” plot by Army officers that involved fraud, forgery and coercion of witnesses.

Here are the key excerpts from the CBI chargesheet:

* The Army unit of 7 Rashtriya Rifles at Khundroo, Anantnag, were under tremendous psychological pressure to show results after the massacre of 36 Sikhs at Chhittisinghpora on March 20, 2000. Col Ajay Saxena, then Major B P Singh, Major Sourabh Sharma, Subedar Idrees Khan and other personnel of 7RR hatched a criminal conspiracy to pick up some innocent persons and stage-manage an encounter to create an impression that the militants responsible for the Chhittisinghpora killings had been neutralised.

* Mirza Noori said 10 to 12 persons entered her house at about 1 am [March 23-24, 2000] and took away her husband [Jumma Khan, 55] at gunpoint. They were all dressed in Army uniform and fully armed. Jumma Khan [another man with the same name], 50,was abducted by 5-6 gunmen in Army uniform the same night at 2 am. Zahoor Ahmed Dalai disappeared into thin air from village Mominabad in the evening of March 24. Bashir Ahmed Bhatt and Mohd Yousuf Malik of Hallen disappeared from village Sheerpora under suspicious circumstances on March 24 evening. The fact that they belonged to different villages situated in a radius of 5-6 km, had not been seen together… and had no history of militant activity establishes that the encounter was fake.

* Two among them were identified the very next day. Moulvi Qasim of Pathribal, a relative, identified the bodies of the two Jumma Khans. When the bodies were subsequently exhumed, Mirza Noori identified the body of her husband.

* It is claimed in the “After Action Report” by the Army unit that Mohd Yaqoob Wagey, arrested over the Chhittisinghpora massacre, had given information on March 24 about a hideout where a group of terrorists responsible were likely to be hiding. But in the list of names allegedly given by Wagey, the names of [these] five persons killed do not figure.

* It is falsely claimed by the accused that the information given by Wagey was shared by the SSP [Farooq Khan] with them at 11 pm on March 24 and immediately “Operation Swift” was planned. The investigation has disclosed that all the five persons were abducted well before that which amply establishes it to be a case of abduction and killing and destruction of evidence…

* In the “situation report” sent by Capt Puneet Dutta of 1-Sect. RR to Victor Force with a copy to 7RR on March 25 at 8 am, it was mentioned that based on specific information provided by STF/Anantnag… troops left for Panchalthan and operation was in progress. On the contrary, Farooq Khan, then SSP, Anantnag, and other police personnel have denied having passed on any such information to the accused persons.

* …In the special situation report dated March 25 sent by Major Amit Saxena at 4 pm to Headquarter-1 Sector, Rastriya Rifles, it was mentioned that based on police inputs, joint operation with STF was launched… This claim has been denied by the SSP and ASI Bashir Ahmed. Bashir Ahmed had been called to the Headquarters of 7RR on the night of March 24 by the then commanding officer, Colonel Ajay Saxena, and had been asked to stay overnight. He was taken to the place of alleged encounter in the morning. He and his team did not participate in the operation.

* It is highly improbable for the 7 RR personnel to have used such a huge quantity of arms and ammunition against five unarmed civilians. This was done to create a false impression of an encounter.

* Yet another circumstance indicative of the encounter being false is the fact that none of the 7RR men, who participated suffered any injuries at the hands of the so-called militants who, as per the 7RR claim, exchanged fire with them.

* …A memo was prepared regarding seizure of arms and ammunition by Major Amit Saxena. The memo was typed and bore his signature. If the encounter was genuine, no such typed memo could have been prepared on the spot. The typed memo appears to be an afterthought… prepared subsequently at [another] place. Importantly, the witnesses for this memo, Farooq Ahmad Gujjar and Mohd Ayub Gujjar, have stated that their signatures were obtained on blank papers by the Army authorities.

* A copy of the seizure memo was given to the police on April 4 and the arms were handed over on August 8 (recorded in an issue voucher). The details mentioned in these two documents do not tally. The seizure memo does not mention that the 5 AK-47 rifles were damaged but in the issue voucher, it is mentioned so, which is indicative of manipulation.

* Subedar Idrees Khan had prepared a handing over a memo (of the five bodies) to HC Abdul Majeed of Anantnag police station, in which he mentioned the names of three killed persons and showed them as Pakistanis. The identity of the other two was shown as “unknown”. It is not known how the accused persons could determine that the three persons were Pakistanis. It is indicative of the preconceived notion of the accused persons with a view to justifying the alleged encounter and to suppress the identities of the persons killed.

* Zahoor Ahmad Dalal had 98 per cent burns. Bashir Ahmad Bhat’s body was with half of skull, face distorted and unidentifiable. He had 10 gunshot wounds and multiple injuries. Juma Khan [age 50] had 97 per cent burns, fractures of five ribs and four bullet entry wounds; Juma Khan [age 55] had 95 per cent burns, three bullet wounds; Mohammad Yousuf Malik’s body was without the head, neck and upper one-third of the left side of the thorax, the left arm was lying separately. The findings of the postmortem indicate… use of excessive and unwarranted force. It is impossible for the killed persons to have suffered such extensive burn injuries in a genuine encounter.

* …The bodies were burnt to pre-empt identification.

* Compared to the burn injuries, the burn damage caused to the kothas (the hutments where these five men were killed) is insignificant…

* …The arms allegedly recovered from their possession were not burnt or damaged correspondingly…

* Immediately after the disappearance of the five persons, relatives started searching for them and lodged reports with the police even before the alleged encounter on March 25, which again proves it was a case of abduction and killing and destruction of evidence…

* The CBI has recorded that twice the blood samples were taken from the exhumed bodies and their kin to scientifically establish the identity of the five men killed in the fake encounter. CDFD Hyderabad and CFSL Kolkata conducted the necessary scientific tests on the samples and opined that they had been fudged. Thereafter, the team headed by Dr Balbir Kaur took the blood samples of the relatives of the deceased persons again on June 6. CFSL Kolkata once again opined that the samples had been fudged. Subsequently, experts from CDFD and CFSL visited Anantnag and got the bodies exhumed and took fresh samples from the bodies and from the relatives. After conducting tests, both laboratories opined that the bodies were of the five persons mentioned above, thereby [establishing] their identities.

* Brig Ajay Saxena, Lt Col Brajendra Pratap Singh, Major Sourabh Sharma, Major Amit Saxena [their ranks at the time of the charge-sheet being filed, 2006] and Subedar Idrees Khan did not cooperate with the investigation and declined to give the names of the under-command who had participated in this fake encounter with a view to defeating the ends of justice and shielding themselves and the under-command from criminal liability, lest anyone of them should disclose the true facts.

* Ajay Saxena, along with B P Singh, Sourabh Sharma, Idrees Khan and other troops entered into a criminal conspiracy during March 21 and 25, 2000, to abduct some persons and kill them in a fake encounter and project that the militants responsible for the Chittisinghpora massacre had been killed… After abduction, wrongful confinement and killing of the five civilians, Ajay Saxena, B P Singh, Sourabh Sharma and Idrees Khan, in connivance with Amit Saxena, prepared a false seizure memo, gave a false complaint to the police station… showing some of them [those killed] as foreign militants and also passed on false information to senior officers…

* After the massacre of 36 Sikhs on March 20 at Chittisinghpora… there was public hue and cry and the armed forces/security forces were under tremendous pressure to arrest the culprits. The area was under the operational command of 7 Rashtriya Rifles, which had to bear the blame for operational inefficiency and ineffectiveness.

* Consequent to the encounter, Col IJ Peoples, officiating commander 1-Sector RR, sent a confidential “After Action Report” dated April 1 in respect of Operation Swift to HQ Victor Force. In this report, it was mentioned that in a barbaric act of violence, ISI-backed terrorists killed 36 innocent Sikhs in Chittisinghpora…

No one knows the killers of Chittisinghpora:

The CBI’s chargesheet into Pathribal fake encounter states that the three incidents, Chittisinghpora, Pathribal and Brakpora, were all “related to the same transaction” and they conducted simultaneous investigations in these cases. The CBI didn’t expand their probe because emphasis was only on Pathribal fake encounter.

There is a strong view within Kashmir that the justice in Pathribal and Brakpora cases are scuttled only because nobody wants the lid off the truth of Chittisinghpora, where the identity of the perpetrators of that massacre is still inconclusive. After the Pathribal fake encounter expose, J&K police had again claimed to have solved the Chittisinghpora massacre case but even after 17 years, the identity of the perpetrators of the Chittisinghpora massacre is still shrouded in mystery.

In September 2000, the J&K Police had claimed that they have arrested two Lashkar militants Mohammad Suhail Malik and Wasim Ahmed (both Pakistani nationals) in Srinagar. “During interrogation”, the J&K Police had claimed, “they had also disclosed their involvement in Chatisinghpora massacre”. A case was registered against them in Shergadi Police Station in Srinagar. The J&K police had claimed that they recorded their disclosure statement on September 2, 2000. The J&K police had also claimed that they had destroyed their “weapons of offence by throwing them in the river Lidder and thus couldn’t be recovered”. Subsequently, the J&K police filed a chargesheet against the two Pakistani men.

And while the trial was underway in Anantnag, J&K Panthers Party chief and a Supreme Court lawyer Bhim Singh filed a writ petition before SC, seeking the transfer of the case for trial to Delhi. On November 10, 2008, the SC ordered that the trial be transferred to District Court at Delhi. On August 10, 2011, the trial court held that “no incriminating evidence was brought on record against the accused” and acquitted them with a direction to release them from the custody. Subsequently, the J&K government challenged the acquittal before the Delhi High Court. On May 29, 2012, Justice Gita Mittal and Justice J R Midha concluded that “there was no evidence against the respondents (Mohammad Suhail Malik and Wasim Ahmed) before the Trial Judge and the Trial Judge had rightly directed their release from custody…”.

Here is a look at the evidence provided by the prosecution against the two militants to prove their alleged involvement in Chittisinghpora massacre.

* “The witness Sardar Krishan Singh has stated that he had heard the sound of gunfire at about 1715 hrs while he was going to sleep after taking his meals. He has given hearsay evidence of a cousin brother who had told the witness that some people had gathered outside his house and that the terrorists wearing army uniforms had killed some persons near gurudwara”.

* “The other public witness by the prosecution was Rauf Ahmed Sufi, who testified that he was a driver of the bus which he had driven from Anantnag to Chatisinghpora. All passengers had got down from the bus at Chatisinghpora and the bus was parked in the village for the night. He deposes about hearing gunfire outside the bus in the night without giving any evidence about the incident or about the identity of the gunmen”.

* Sufi’s brother Reish Ahmed Sufi (conductor of the bus) “stated that he could not see the persons, who were firing, due to darkness. He could not even state the number of persons engaged in firing”. During cross-examined, he “vaguely mentioning that out of those persons (the assailants) some persons had long beard whereas others had small beard”.

* Gurmukh Singh, also a public witness, “stated that he was not in a position to identify the accused persons”. He said that “he went to the place of occurrence after the firing”.

* Nanak Singh, who was injured in the incident, “stated that he became unconscious after the incident so he did not see the assailants”.

* Karamjit Singh, who was produced as an eyewitness “turned hostile in the witness box”. “This witness stated that on 20th March, 2000 around 7:00 – 7:15 pm, he was returning to his house after purchasing milk for his child when some unknown gunmen in ready position in army uniform met him and told him to go to gurudwara as they wanted to search the village,’’ judgment recorded. “They (the gunmen in army fatigues) told him that some militants had entered in the village and they had to conduct a search for which reason he should go to the gurudwara. Though he (Karamjit Singh) had gone to the gurudwara where villagers were sitting in a line but as his infant child was ill and he was tense because he had to take (home) the milk for him, he had requested the commanding officer of the group to let him go. He further stated that it was dark as there was no electricity. After he reached his house, he heard the noise of firing and when he came out of the house after half an hour, he saw dead bodies scattered on the ground. (He) also stated that he could not identify the persons, who he had met or who had told him to go to the gurudwara in the evening”. During cross-examination, he (Karamjit Singh) “denied that the accused persons were also amongst the persons who had met him on that day”.

* “Two public witnesses, Ulfat Jan and Bilal Ahmed could not be traced by the prosecution during trial and brought into the witness box. SSP, Anantnag made a report to the court that they were not traceable”.

Subsequently, the government silently repatriated Lashkar militants Mohammad Suhail Malik and Wasim Ahmed to Pakistan.