Officials admit army killed Kashmir civilians


By Shaikh Azizur Rahman

THE WASHINGTON TIMES



http://www.washingtontimes.com/world/20020802-96821384.htm



     ANANTNAG, India ? Indian army troops hunting for

terrorists involved in an attack in Kashmir killed and

buried innocent civilians, and when protests by

villagers forced exhumation of their bodies, they

fudged DNA tests to try to prove that the remains were

those of Pakistani militants, government reports have

revealed.



     Human rights groups frequently have reported

abuses by the Indian army in the territory claimed by

both India and Pakistan, but the incident is one of a

few cases of excesses conceded by government

officials.



     On March 20, 2000, when President Clinton was

visiting India, 35 Sikhs were killed in

Chattisinghpura village in Kashmir by suspected

Islamic militants disguised in army uniforms. India

blamed Pakistan-based terrorists for the attack.



     Four days later, 17 Muslim residents from three

neighboring villages went missing. Simultaneously,

reports emerged that five Pakistani terrorists

involved in the attack had been killed in an

"encounter."



     Juma Khan, a 45-year-old resident of Brari Angan

village, was picked up at night by soldiers without

any explanation. The local police said they had no

knowledge of the arrest.



     "I did not know where else to go then. I thought

they would not harm him because he was a family man

and was not involved in anything," Mr. Khan's wife,

Roshan Jan, said recently.



     Two days after Mr. Khan was picked up, an army

statement said five "foreign militants" from

Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen holed up in a

house in neighboring Panchalthan village were shot

dead by army sharpshooters during a "ferocious

encounter."



     Bodies of those killed were buried quickly by the

army without autopsies. From clothing and personal

items recovered around the burial sites, villagers

ascertained that the five were from among the missing

villagers.



     As public protests grew, the state government

ordered, two weeks after the men had been buried, that

the bodies be exhumed.



     Although the bodies were charred, the army

fatigues in which they had been clothed were

mysteriously intact. Most bodies had torture marks on

them. One body was headless.



     State Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah ordered DNA

testing to ascertain their identities. But that plan

came under a cloud when two forensic laboratories said

the DNA samples of the dead men's relatives had been

tampered with.



     "In one case, blood samples were said to belong

to the mother and daughter of one victim. But not only

were the samples male in origin, but both belonged to

the same man," a senior scientist of Central Forensic

Science Laboratory in Calcutta said this week.



     An investigation by the Times of India newspaper

revealed that in three cases the samples of women

relatives were found to have been collected from men.

Samples of another woman relative contained DNA of two

individuals.



     The government suspended the doctors who had

collected the samples, and a new team, headed by a

senior police officer, collected blood samples in

April this year.



     On July 16, Mr. Abdullah announced the DNA test

results to the state legislative assembly in Srinagar,

saying the report established that the dead men were

"not foreign terrorists, as contended by the forces,

but innocent civilians."



     He said the federal Central Bureau of

Investigation would probe the DNA tests, the guilty

would be punished, and relatives of the victims would

be compensated.



     But Mr. Khan's wife said nothing could compensate

for the loss of her husband.






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