Army Killed Anantnag Villagers, Ex-SP Tells Panel
1 September 2000
The Times of India
Srinagar: The suspended superintendent of police, Anantnag, Farooq Khan, has told the Justice S.R. Pandian commission that the Pathribal-Panchathal operation, in which five local villagers were killed at Brakpora in Anantnag district, was conducted by Army officers, who concluded that those killed must be foreign militants involved in the Chhatisinghpora massacre. The police did not participate in the incident, he said. Later in the day, the commission adjourned its sitting to September 12 after hearing both sides. Concluding his evidence before the commission, Khan said: ''Technically, it was a joint operation. By technical, it is meant that police and Special Operations Group representatives accompany the Army but do not necessarily take part in the actual shooting.'' He claimed that the Chhatisinghpora massacre of 35 Sikhs gave a new dimension to military operations in the Valley. When cross-examined by counsel for the complainants, the police officer said:''Yes, technically it was a joint operation as representatives of the police and the SOG were with the commandant of the unit, which conducted the operation. The Army operations are always led by their officers.'' He said on the basis of the Army briefing, he had claimed earlier that the five militants killed were foreigners and involved in the Chhatisinghpora massacre. Again, during his cross-examination by counsel for the SOG and the CRPF, Khan said he would not rule out the possibility of those killed being local militants. All local militants were once ordinary civilians and only later became militants, he added. According to Khan, it was only after Brakpora firing that the J&K government came out with specific instructions and directions that the SOG set-up in each district should function under the operational command of district SP. The SOG camp was neither a police station nor did it have anything to do with the district police functioning. The SOG and CRPF personnel were neither authorised nor required to maintain law and order. The SOG and CRPF personnel were only meant for anti-militancy operations, Khan said. Four SOG and three CRPF personnel of Brakpora have been charged with murder for their involvement in the firing in which eight persons were killed and 23 injured on April 3. The police officer claimed that he came to know about a controversy regardingidentity of the five persons killed at Pathribal four days after the killing, when people of Brati Aangan village said that two of those killed were from their village. The chaukidar of the village had lodged an FIR claiming that some masked gunmen had kidnapped the villagers with an intention to kill them. The zonal police headquarters here on March 25 had in a news conference claimed: ''The militants killed were involved in the Chhatisinghpora killings. The operation was supervised by Brig Bajaj and Farooq Khan, SSP, Anantnag.'' However, during the examination before the commission, Khan claimed he was not involved in the operation and had reached the site of the incident site only the next day. The entire operation was carried out by the Army and it was only on the suggestion of its officers that he had announced they were foreign militants involved in the Chhatisinghpora massacre. He squarely blamed the Army for the killing of five villagers, creating an impression that they were members of the two foreign militant outfits and involved in the Chhatisinghpora incident. But the controversy took a new turn on Thursday with the police claim of having arrested two Pakistani militants involved in the massacre, over five months after the incident.