Chattisinghpura massacre


A mysterious case of the targeted killing of Sikhs and Muslims in Kashmir



Though there are countless stories of mass murders, torture, rape, mysterious disappearances, militia and state sponsored terrorism in the Indian Occupied Kashmir but Chattisinghpura massacre is an unusual example where the target community was not Muslims but Sikhs.

On the evening of 20 March, 2000, when Mr Bill Clinton was about to arrive in India, 35 members of the Sikh community of a village named Chattisinghpura, located in the Anantnag district of South Kashmir, were callously killed by men dressed in Indian Army uniforms. According to an eye witness, the murderers of those innocent villagers were armed with AK-47s and had alcohol with them. The victims were taken out of their houses, assembled near the main village gurdwara and shot dead. The perpetrators seemed to be enjoying the killing and one of them laughed while commenting ‘this is our way of playing Holi’.

Following their traditional style of accusing Pakistan for every terrorist activity on their soil, The Indian government made a hasty announcement that Pakistan based terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), was behind the attack and that five men involved in the attack had been eliminated by the Indian security forces. At that point, they might not have thought of the embarrassment they were going to bring to their country by blatantly lying about the factual situation of that tragedy. Soon after that dramatic development, the families of five Muslim men from the nearby villages started protesting against their mysterious disappearances. The procession grew stronger with around 2,000 protestors demanding an independent inquiry of disappeared Muslim men. The police and paramilitary forces of India opened fire on protestors, killing at least nine of them.

Exhumation of alleged terrorists’ bodies was ordered and DNA tests were carried out after an increased pressure on the government. However, soon the news was out in the public domain that the samples submitted for DNA testing were fudged. Then Chief Minister of the Jammu and Kahsmir got furious to learn that and said: “The deceased were not foreign terrorists as claimed by the forces who led the operations but they were innocent civilians for which the people agitated.” He also decided to transfer the case to CBI who charged the security forces to stage a criminal conspiracy where some innocent Muslim villagers were brutally killed and presented as terrorists. Their bodies were hideously burnt and mutilated to an extent that no one could recognise them. As a renowned Indian journalist, Burkha Dutt, recalled this incident in her recent book, This Unquiet Land, ‘Some of the information was too incendiary to be used in the real time reporting.’

Even after getting a detailed charge sheet by the CBI against the security forces personnel involved in the ruthless killing of innocent Muslims, the Indian Army shamelessly stood behind those criminals. The Indian Ministry of Defence claimed immunity against prosecution for soldiers engaged in security operations under a controversial piece of legislation called Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which grants ‘special powers’ to armed forces deployed in “disturbed areas” of the country. Those special powers include: raiding houses, arrest without warrant, shoot to kill the suspect militants, and destroy properties on suspicion of being used by the militants. Not just that but this ‘licence to kill’ also provides them full immunity from prosecution or legal proceeding.

After fourteen years of the massacre, in 2014, an Indian Army court set a ‘glorifying’ example of justice when they set free all the accused involved in the killing of innocent unarmed civilians. Furthermore, an ‘eighteen years’ old Pakistani boy, Suhail Malik, confessed while in custody about participating in the horrific massacre, leaving endless questions on the credibility of that confession.

The victims’ families in Chattisingpura have been waiting for justice over the last sixteen years. The mystery of this case is still unresolved and the Indian government’s version of blaming Pakistan seems to be completely devoid of any sense and logic. There are three reasons why this curious case goes against Indian version of accusing Pakistan in this matter: Firstly, why would Pakistan carry out such an atrocity in Kashmir at a time when the US President was on his way to India and Pakistan? How could it possibly help Pakistan’s principled stand on the Kashmir issue? The baseless propaganda by the Indian government that Pakistan was behind this attack reduced Clinton’s visit to Pakistan to only six hours as compared to his five-day long visit to India. Extraordinary security arrangements had to made for his stay in Pakistan, including his arrival in an unmarked jet. Also, he allegedly refused to shake hands with General Musharraf, then President of Pakistan. The US never officially endorsed the accusations of India that Pakistan was behind the Chattisinghpura attack as they had no independent confirmation. Secondly, why did the Indian Army stage managed the killing of innocent Muslim civilians after the massacre as detailed in the CBI report? And last but not the least is the complete lack of interest by the state and the central governments to hold an independent inquiry to satisfy the demands of local community as recently highlighted by the All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC).

Atrocities by the Indian Army are not new to the people of Jammu and Kashmir but Chattisinghpura massacre is an unprecedented case where a deliberate attempt was made to sow the seeds of hatred between Sikhs and Muslims who always had harmonious relations with each other in that region. The visit of the US President to India seemed to be a golden opportunity for them to prove that the freedom fighters of Kashmir were nothing more than senseless savages and that Pakistan was responsible for promoting terrorism in Kashmir. It’s time to bring the attention of international community and global human rights groups towards the Kashmir conflict in order to stop the on-going injustices in that part of the world by the Indian security forces.