Srinagar, Aug 3: On the 19h anniversary of Sailan massacre in Poonch district of Jammu, the relatives of the victims decried inordinate delay in justice and vowed to continue their struggle for bringing the accused to book.
The relatives mostly survivors of the brutal massacre in which 19 people including 11 children of three families were killed allegedly by four Special Police Officers (SPOs) and personnel of 9 Paratroopers of Army on August 3, 1998 night visited the graveyard and offered prayers for the victims.
The family members of the murdered Sailan people said day before the massacre, unidentified gunmen had killed an SPO Zakir Ahmad of Sailan on Mughal road. They said the personnel from 9 Paratroopers accused their relative, Imtiaz Ahmad, who was a militant for the killing.
“Zakir worked as an informer for Army. The Army personnel had threatened Imtiaz’s family to face consequences for Zakir’s killing. To save their lives, Imtiaz’s family took refuge in two houses including mine. During night, SPOs, Muhammad Younis alias Tiger and Muhammad Rafiq alias Pathan, who were close associates of Zakir asked for whereabouts of Imtiaz ,” said Abdul Ahad, a witness.
Ahad said the SPOs thrashed Imtiaz’s brother Maqsood forcing him to reveal whereabouts of his family members.
“Tiger and Pathan were joined by army personnel. They barged into my house and made 20 inmates including my family members to sit on floor like school children,” said Shabir Ahmad another witness.
“An officer wearing a cap and jacket severely tortured Imtiaz’s father. Tiger fired upon his legs and his family rushed to the spot to save him. My father caught hold of the army officer’s collar who directed Tiger to open fire on him. In the melee I escaped from a small door trap toward maize fields,” “After 10 minutes I heard cries of my family members. My worst fears turned true after I heard single gunshots after intervals. The forces abruptly left my house however I remained in maize field for whole night,” he said.
Mustering courage Shabir said he went inside the house in morning. “I was shocked to see piles of bodies hacked and mutilated, severed arms, legs and hands were lying in pool of blood. I shivered on seeing an axe embedded in my younger sister Javida’s hip,” said Shabir.
“I fainted on seeing my pregnant sister Zarina’s abdomen hacked with unborn baby’s arm standing out,” he said.
Shabir’s brother, Muhammad Latief who was 24 years old then accused the police and Army of trying to destroy the evidence including bodies after the incident. “However locals foiled their evil plans and buried the bodies,” he said.
“A week after the massacre, the then Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, visited the area and assured quick justice but, despite evidences and passing of 17 years we are still awaiting justice.
Meanwhile, Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society in a statement said that: “the Sailan massacre is not just an illustration of the brutality of crimes committed in Jammu and Kashmir by the armed forces. It is an apt example of the manner in which the system seeks to exhaust, disappoint families of victims, and in the end attempt to ensure impunity for the armed forces. The families had to approach the Jammu and Kashmir High Court for investigations in this case and finally in 2012 the High Court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to carry out proper investigations. Three years later, on 25 August 2015, the CBI concluded that the case should be closed, exonerated the named accused and stated that the families of the victim were untruthful. The struggle for the families then began before the CBI court in Jammu where they filed a protest petition for further investigations. The family members had to travel to Jammu from Sailan, Poonch and their legal representatives from Srinagar. Over close to eighteen court dates, until 2 May 2017, the court was seized of the case, heard detailed arguments and then reserved the case for final orders. But, due to the transfers of judges, a new judge has now been assigned to the case and the case is to be re-heard all over again.” (CNS)