Probe exposes CRPF excesses
1 November 2000
SRINAGAR: Reports of the Mukherjee Committee and the Pandian Commission on two incidents which claimed more than 40 lives in April and August this year have not only reopened the issUSA of Chattisinghpora massacre and Pathribal killings but also raised qUSAions on the functioning of the security forces in tackling Kashmir militancy. Even as the Union Home Minister, Mr. L. K. Advani, ruled out a judicial probe into the Amarnath carnage in which 30 pilgrims were killed, the committee headed by Lt. Gen. J. R. Mukherjee, commander of 15 corps, opined that excessive force was used by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) deployed to protect the pilgrims. As usual police as well as paramilitary authorities held militants responsible for the killings. The pilgrims who were eyewitness to the bloodbath had also accused the CRPF of resorting to indiscriminate firing in all directions which led to a colossal loss of human lives. The police tried to brush aside the allegations saying two militants who were killed in the exchange of fire had gunned down the pilgrims. This charge has been proved wrong. The Mukherjee Committee - which had the Principal Secretary (Home), Mr. C. Phonsog, and the Deputy Commissioner (Anantnag) as its members found 17 CRPF personnel including a Commandant and two Deputy Commandants involved in the killings. Murder cases under Section 302 are being registered against them. It is now believed that Mr. Advani was already convinced about the involvement of the paramilitary force in the killings as he stated a judicial inquiry would demoralise the forces. But action has been taken against five State police officers including a Superintendent of Police. The report submitted by the former Supreme Court judge, Mr. Justice S. R. Pandian, has responded the Chattisinghpora incident in which 35 Sikhs were shot dead by unidentified gunmen on March 20 along with the killing of five civilians by the Army allegedly in a ''fake encounter'' at Panchalthan. The investigations into the Brakpora firing, in which nine civilian were killed and 15 injured, found a link with both these incidents. So it turned out to be a compulsion for the Government to probe those two incidents, a senior State official said. It is reliably learnt that Mr. Justice Pandian had also expressed his displeasure at the State not having investigated the two incidents. Holding SOG and CRPF personnel responsible for opening fire without provocation on a procession protesting against killing of five civilians at Panchalthan by the Army, the report belied the initial police report that there were some militants in the procession who just opened the fire. Sensing more trouble the Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, rejected the theory at that time when pandemonium broke out in the assembly in Jammu. A judicial probe has been ordered into the Chattisinghpora and Panchalthan incidents. In case the allegations in at least the latter one were proved it would open a Pandora''s Box vis-a-vis the major incidents of mayhem in Kashmir.