Updated: September 8, 2015 5:40:51 am
For the last five years, three families in the village of Nadihal, eight kilometres from north Kashmir’s Baramulla town, have been waiting anxiously for justice.
On Monday, the families — who had each lost a young man in a fake encounter — finally had a reason to breathe easy. For, the Army’s Northern Command confirmed the life sentences awarded to six Army personnel in the Machil fake encounter case.
But their happiness was marred by a few complaints. The families say two civilians — Bashir Ahmad Lone and Abdul Hamid — who allegedly handed over the three youths to the Army officials, have not been punished yet. Moreover, the deaths of the three men left the families in a dire financial condition, with very little in the way of compensation.
“We belong to poor families, we had never visited civil or Army courts before this. But to seek justice, we went everywhere. Finally our hard work has seen the guilty being punished,” said Mohammad Maqbool, the brother of Riyaz Ahmad, who was one of the men killed by the Army on the Line of Control (LoC). The other two were identified as Shezad Ahmad and Mohammad Shafi.
Maqbool said that when the case lingered, villagers and relatives told the family that they would never get justice. “Today, they have all been proved wrong. However, justice would have been served completely if they had been given capital punishment,” he said.
Maqbool said his brother was only 16 when he was lured to the LoC by two locals working with the Army.
“My brother was working as a mechanic at a workshop in Sopore; he was taken to the LoC with a promise of a job and then killed in cold blood,” Maqbool said.“For several years, in the absence of money, we had to face many hardships. But today, we are satisfied that the guilty will face a life term,” Maqbool added.
Muzaffar Ahmad, whose cousin Shafi was among the victims, said Monday’s decision provided much-needed closure to the families. “We are happy with this judgment. Shafi was the only source of income for his family. All these boys were from poor families, it is now the duty of the Central government to rehabilitate these families on behalf of the Army. The only compensation that these families received was Rs 1 lakh by the state government as ex gratia, but that money was exhausted in fighting legal battles,” Muzaffar said.
Showkat Ahmad, whose brother Shezad was also killed at the LoC, said his family was happy with the decision — though not entirely satisfied. “For us, justice is still incomplete and it will be complete only when the two civilians who handed over my brother to the Army get punishment,’’ he said, adding that the civilians, who are being tried in civil courts, should get capital punishment.
Showkat said the families never though the Armymen would be punished. “The decision will be a lesson for those who indulge in the killing of innocent civilians for promotions and money,” he said.
A five-year wait
April 29, 2010: Two counter-insurgents, along with a Territorial Army jawan, lure three young men from Nadihal village — Shezad Ahmad, Riyaz Ahmad and Mohammad Shafi — to Kalaroos Machil on the LoC with the promise of a job and money. The three are killed by troopers of 4 Rajputana Rifles near the Sona Pindi post and dubbed foreign militants.
The J&K Police file a chargesheet against an Army Colonel, two Majors, five soldiers and three civilians. The Army personnel against whom chargesheet was filed include Colonel D K Pathania of the 4 Rajputana Rifles, Major Upendra Singh, Major Maurya (Adjutant), Subedar Satbir, Hawaldar Bir Singh, Sepoy Chadra Bhan, Sepoy Nagendra Singh, Sepoy Narendra Singh and Abbas Hussain Shah of the Territorial Army.
All accused are booked under sections 302 (murder), 364 (kidnapping), 120B (concealing design to commit offence punishable with imprisonment) and 34 (act done with common intention) of the Indian Penal Court.
Chief Judicial Magistrate, Sopore, issues a notice to the Commanding Officer of the accused Army personnel to exercise his options, which include either trying the accused in civil courts or subjecting them to court martial proceedings.
2011: The Army seeks custody of rifleman Abbas Shah and moves an application for the court martial of its troops involved in the fake encounter case.
2013: J&K High Court permits the trial of Abbas Shah in Army Court. The Army had moved a review petition in the High Court seeking his custody.
Army orders court martial proceedings against six soldiers, including two officers involved in the Machil fake encounter case.
2014: Army Court awards life sentences to six Army personnel, sends it to Northern Command for confirmation.
September 7, 2015: Army’s Northern Command confirms life sentences to six Army personnel.
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