World Bulletin/News Desk
A military court found seven Indian army soldiers, including two officers guilty of killing three unarmed Kashmiri civilians in fake encounters in 2010 and sentenced them to life imprisonment Thursday.
The soldiers not only staged the killings, but later also claimed rewards and remunerations for the act by declaring the slain Kashmiri civilians as foreign militants in Indian-held Kashmir in 2010.
The Indian military court had tried the seven army personnel for four years before convicting them. The punishment includes suspension of service benefits of the seven convicts.
The convicted Indian soldiers had first lured the three Kashmiri civilians -- Shahzad Ahmad Khan, Mohammad Shafi Lone and Riyaz Ahmad Lone -- to work for the Indian army as porters on April 30, 2010 and promised the victims good money.
“The Indian solders instead took them to Macchil area in Kashmir’s border district of Kupwara and staged a fake gun battle, and showed our children as foreign militants,” Naseema Bano, mother of slain Riyaz Ahmad Lone told Anadolu Agency.
The Indian soldiers had also disfigured the corpses by applying black paint to the clean shaven faces of the slain civilians; dressed the bodies in militia fatigues and put weapons on them.
The staged killings came to be known locally as the Macchil fake-encounter case and became one of the key reasons for the mass protests in Indian-held Kashmir in 2010.
The protests saw hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris coming out on the streets demanding independence from India. More than 120 civilians were killed by the Indian police during the protests that saw Indian-held Kashmir reeling under months-long curfew.
Later, police had registered a case under pressure and charged 11 men, including a surrendered militant in the case.
Chief Minister of Indian-held Kashmir Omar Abdullah Thursday welcomed the verdict.
“It is a watershed moment. No one in Kashmir ever believed that justice would be done in such cases. Faith in institutions disappeared. I hope that we never see such Machhil fake encounter type of incidents ever again and let this serve as a warning to those tempted to try,” Abdullah tweeted.
Kashmiri leaders, however, termed the judgment eyewash.
“What is there to welcome? Every village and town in Kashmir is littered with fake encounters by the Indian army and not one solider has been punished in all those cases…Indian institutions have never been able to give justice to Kashmir,” senior Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani said.
Families of the slain Kashmiris said the only justice in the case would have been “an eye for an eye.”
“It was not that they killed my son by accident or in a fight or something, but it was a premeditated murder, and who knows how many Kashmiris like my son they murdered before this. They should have been hanged…this is no justice,” Bano added.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full.
The two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- since they were partitioned in 1947, two of which were over Kashmir.
Since 1989, Kashmiri resistance groups in Indian-held Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence.
More than 70,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict so far.
Last Mod: 14 Kasım 2014, 09:33