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Machil sentencing: 3 lives taken for the sake of medals, each bought at Rs 50,000

Muzamil Jaleel goes back to the Machil killings that has led to a court-martial sentencing five Army personnel.

Written by Muzamil Jaleel | Updated: November 14, 2014 7:47 pm
encounter Family of Shahzad Ahmad Khan in Nadihal village on Thursday. (Source: Express photo by Shuaib Masoodi)

Four years ago when the bodies of three young men arrived home in Nadihal, a northern Kashmir village surrounded by apple orchards, willows and poplar trees, it led to the unfolding of a complex narrative of counterinsurgency and greed for medals and petty rewards among a group of Army officers and their local collaborators.

Shahzad Ahmad Khan, 27, Mohd Shafi Lone, 19, and Riyaz Ahmad Lone, 20, had been lured by the Army to Kalaroos in Kupwara on April 29, 2010, according to the findings of the subsequent police probe. They were killed later that night at Sona Pindi on the Machil sector. Army officers then called them foreign militants who were killed in an encounter while trying to infiltrate the Line of Control.

Their bodies were buried in a graveyard near the LoC. To prove that they were foreign militants, a black beard had been painted on the face of Shafi Lone, the youngest, and a picture taken.

A visit to Nadihal that year unravelled a story more complex than most others of staged encounters in Kashmir. Police investigations would later find that one Bashir Ahmad Lone had laid the death trap, literally selling them for Rs 50,000 each to Army men. Bashir was a counter-insurgent while his brother, Qayoom, was a policeman. Villagers burnt his house down after the three bodies were exhumed and brought back to Nadihal.

These three men had no connection with the armed movement and one of them was even close to the Army. How did they end up in an Army camp in far-off Kalaroos?

This was because all of them were living in poverty. When an offer for work at Rs 2,000 a day came, they couldn’t refuse. The day he left, Shahzad’s wife gave him Rs 50 because he had nothing else.

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Find and execute

The interrogation of four persons, especially Territorial Army jawan Abbas Hussain Shah and Army source Hameed, found that troops of the 4 Rajputana Rifles were in a hurry to stage an encounter on the Line of Control to secure a unit citation and cash award before they would shift out of the valley. The killings took place on the night of April 29-30, 2010; the unit shifted out within a week.

Abbas Hussain Shah, who has been exonerated, claimed to have been in constant touch with “Major Upendra” ever since he joined 19 Division Headquarters in Baramulla. Shah said his job was to scout around for information. “In April, Major sahib asked to arrange a few young men and told me we have to send them across to Pakistan to bring weapons and track (a group of militants) whom we could trap.

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Major sahib promised to pay them and I asked Hameed for help,” he had told The Indian Express in an interview at Sopore police station.

Hameed had earlier introduced Bashir Ahmad Lone, the counter-insurgent from Nadihal, to Abbas. “Bashir’s nephew was in the Army school and he wanted his fee waived and I took him to the officers. He became my friend too,’’ Abbas said.

Hameed asked Bashir to arrange a few men for the army, and, according to police records, he claimed to have told Abbas and Hameed later that he had arranged three men from his village and offered them Rs 2,000 a day for work at the LoC. The trip to Kalaroos was scheduled for April 27. According to Hameed’s version, Bashir arranged a Tata Sumo and along with Hameed and the three travelled to the 4 Rajput camp in Kalaroos.

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“The major asked us to go back home and come on April 29, 2010, as the weather was not good. On April 29, Abbas accompanied us,’’ Hameed told police. “They were happy that they would be paid well for the work. They were chatting and joking. Abbas bought some coke and chips. At Kupwara, he took us to a hotel where we all had kanti (fried boneless mutton) with naan. We even smoked charas.”
Hameed told interrogators “Major sahib” was waiting with two Army vehicles at Kalaroos. “He asked the three to get into one truck and asked us to board the other. He asked Bashir to leave in the Sumo,” he said.

The next morning, Abbas and Hameed were reportedly given Rs 1.5 lakh by the major along with two bottles of whisky and two beer bottles as their reward. This was after they had been separated during the night; their statements say the major had taken Abbas along with him.

After the three men were killed, the Army claimed to have recovered five AK rifles, ammunition and Pakistani currency from them. The police say the unit received Rs 6 lakh as cash award for this operation.

Cracking the case

The man who helped take the lid off the fake encounter was Shahzad’s close friend Fayaz Ahmad Wani. The day the three went missing, Shahzad had spoken to Wani on phone and told him he was with Bashir Lone, who had hired him for Rs 2,000 a day to work with the Army and that he was on his way to Kalaroos.

On May 10, the families of the three men in Nadihal registered a missing persons report with Panzla police station in Sopore. Shahzad’s family told police that Wani had informed them about Shahzad’s call. The police analysed call details of the victims and of Bashir and found that they had all gone to Kalaroos. Bashir was picked up on May 21, and subsequently police arrested Hameed too. Abbas was arrested on May 27.

2,943 Number of unidentified bodies listed by International Peoples Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in a report published in 2009. These had been found in 55 villages in Bandipora, Baramulla, and Kupwara districts of Kashmir, all killed by the armed forces and buried without ever ascertaining their identity, according to the report, Buried Evidence: Unknown, Unmarked, and Mass Graves in Kashmir .

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  1. K
    Kpdas
    Nov 14, 2014 at 3:04 am
    Hang our heads in shame and disgust.army has to be sanitised and offered more counselling and taught about human rights and ethics . our political masters have to set a better example .
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    1. J
      Jolly
      Nov 16, 2014 at 6:29 pm
      It is an agony and highest cl of pathetic state 9f mind that this piece, depicting the horrible face that men in uniform could have, has my comment as the second to first and only one, deploring the horrible act. Even the news reports of roasting two boys by army with shower of bullets recently did earn no less than three scores of comments, including those that tried to smell the fish of involvement of those kids in militancy. Where has their conscience hide its shameful face in deep dug grave, who leave no opportunity to abuse and curse Kashmiris, that they are unlawful and deserve all kinds of . Now that the law has taken its course, why is their tongue suffering of acute kind of silence cancer?
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      1. K
        Kaliyug
        Nov 15, 2014 at 4:59 pm
        This kind of incidence puts every hard working Armed personnel under a microscopic scanner and doubts their hard work and dedication to keep the borders safe from terrorists and Taliban. No person should be falsely accused, this only brings doubts in the eyes of the locals who are important for the safety of the country. The ARMY should HANG all these people.
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        1. M
          Mohammed Farooq
          Nov 14, 2014 at 9:13 am
          those who have done this type of things, will never, never have peace in their minds and in their families, just for few Lakhs they killed someone who was the son of someone and the brother of someone. we Indians have great trust in Indian consution, those who did this should be punished very harshly. this type of incidents making bad pictures of Indian Army and BSF peoples, incidents like, in Hyderabad a small boy was burnt alive by the some people in Mehdipatnam Garrison. we know that the army is protecting us from all types of threats and we must say that we cannot pay them by for what they are doing for us. but i must say there are black-sheep everywhere, we must stop them from doing this types of things.
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          1. G
            Guest
            Nov 14, 2014 at 6:52 pm
            Yes, there are black sheeps everywhere. It is the Army who started court martial proceeding within a year and finished it in four years. What would have happened if this would have been in Civilian courts? These might be vacationing in Europe on our money!!
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