Conflict

Pathribal Fake Encounter: 19 years later, campaign for elusive justice continues

On the 19th anniversary of Pathribal fake encounter, the families of victims came out on roads of Brari-Angan to remember the fallen and sought an international probe to punish the culprits.

Rashid Khan was very young, when he came to know that his father had been killed along with four other persons in a fake encounter in the dense forests of Pathribal on March 25, 2000.

Almost two decades later, Rashid has become a battle-hardened campaigner.

Every year, he organises the remembrance meet at Brari-Aangan, prints the posters and demands fresh probe into the killings, just to convey that the case—in which army gave itself a clean chit—“is not close yet”.

This year, Rashid and Co. were once again seeking an international probe into the fake encounter, after “Indian political leadership failed to bring the perpetrators to justice”.

“I am the son of Shaheed Juma Khan who was killed in the fake encounter of Pathribal,” Rashid said. “After the massacre of 35 Sikhs at Chattisinghpora, the Pathribal incident was carried out and my father was killed in that encounter, along with four other persons.”

What happened on this day, 19 years ago, remains the much-campaigned about HR violation in the valley. Men in uniform, said Rashid, had arrived in armoured vehicles, to shoot, what they called “foreign militants”.

Shortly after the incident, army came up with a brief version, saying they’ve “eliminated the militants” allegedly involved in Chattisinghpora massacre.

ALSO READ: WATCH: Retired Lt Gen says Indian Army was involved in Sikh Massacre of Chittisinghpura

But later, it emerged that the slain, who were shot dead brutally, were locals of Brari-aangan, Shangas Village, Veerinag and Ashajipora Anantnag localities. They were reportedly abducted by the armed forces before the encounter.

On April 03, 2000, the locals came out on the streets to protest the extrajudicial killings. They were showered with a volley of bullets at Brakpora, 4kms away from the main town.

ALSO READ: The state aggression that bled the peaceful protest at Brakpora

Since then, the victim families have been struggling for justice, moving from several courts, even the military court. But not a single court, Rashid said, was able to deliver justice to them.

“The successive governments failed us,” he said. “We tried to reach to the Prime Minister of the Country but he also failed to serve justice to us.”

Shakoor Khan, another person who lost his father in the Pathribal fake encounter, said that his wounds are still fresh.

“I still recall the day when I heard about the killing of my father Juma Khan (another person by the same name as that of Rashid’s slain father),” Shakoor said. “It was doomsday for our family members. What was his crime? Why was he killed? I will fight for justice till I am alive. Nobody can suppress me to fight for justice.”

The Juma Khan duo was abducted from their homes, days after the Chattisinghpora Massacre, before being killed on March 25, 2000, along with three other persons: Bashir Ahmed Bhat and Mohammad Yousuf Malik from Halan Kapran, and Zahoor Ahmad Dalal of Ashajipora Anantnag.

While Malik and Bhat were picked from Shirpora, Anantnag where both were running a sheep business, Dalal was picked near Ashajipora.

Rashid Khan said that in this “long fight” for justice, he has also lost his younger brother, Rafiq Ahmad Khan, 16.

The teenager was protesting at Brakpora, two weeks after the Pathribal fake encounter, when he was fired upon along with other protesters.

“I cannot express in words how it is to lose a father and my small brother. It’s beyond expression,” Khan said. “The army might have closed the case but till I am alive, I will continue my fight for justice and I want the culprits to be punished.”

 

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