| Welcome to Global Village Space

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Chhattisgarh massacre : will the Sikh ever see justice?

The author discusses how the Indian Army massacred members from the Sikh community in 2000, on two occasions, and blamed it on Pakistan. The people responsible for the massacre were tried in court, however, they were not sentenced. To this day, the Sikh community has not received justice.

Over twenty years ago, on 20 March 2000, 35 Sikh men were killed in cold blood by a group of masked gunmen in army fatigues. Nanak Singh Aulakh, the lone survivor and eye-witness of the massacre alleged, “It was a premeditated massacre. The massacre was carried out to give a wrong message about Kashmir to former US President Bill Clinton, who was visiting India.”

According to the details narrated by him, 19 Sikh were lined up outside Singh Sabha Sumandri Hall Gurdwara. At the same time, the other group of gunmen placed 17 Sikh in a row outside Shaukeen Mohalla Gurdwara, 150 metres down the road. There were 10 gunmen in front of them.

Read more: Operation Blue Star: When Sikhs were massacred by the Indian Army

While chanting ‘jai hind!’, ‘jai mata di!’ and ‘bharat mata ki jai!’, the gunmen opened fire. Thirty-five of the Sikh were killed. Nanak received a bullet in the leg but miraculously survived the massacre.

To douse the public outcry against the massacre, the state police later killed five terrorists at Pathribal which the local residents termed ‘fake’. Even India’s Central Bureau of Investigation report suggested that the five civilians who were killed at Pathribal were innocent.

LK Advani was then the home minister of India. He offered the Sikh community official protection against militant attacks. But, the Sikh refused to accept his offer saying that they have always been friendly with the Muslim majority and perceive no danger from them. Despite the massacre, local village school imparting education to the Muslim and Sikh remained open.

Read more: RAW agent caught spying on Sikhs, Kashmiris in Germany

The Pathribal “encounter”

Five days after the events at Chattisinghpora, on March 25, 2000, members of the Indian Army killed five men in Pathribal village of Anantnag district, claiming that the victims were the “foreign militants” responsible for the attacks on the Sikh.

Read more: Killings at Pathribal: Indian RSS led Terrorism exposed before World

The local community doubted the Indian government’s official reports. On 30 March, local authorities in Anantnag relented to growing public pressure and agreed to exhume the bodies of the “slain militants” and conduct an investigation into the deaths.

On March 19, 2012, they told the Supreme Court of India that the fake encounter at Pathribal in which seven Sikh people were killed by Army personnel “were cold-blooded murders and the accused officials deserve to be meted out exemplary punishment.”

The  Army conveyed its readiness to a Srinagar court to try the accused person in the military court. Yet, on  January 23, 2014, the Indian Army closed this case for want of evidence.

The Times of India reported that the DNA samples taken from the relatives had been substituted to becloud investigation.

Read more: Sikh anger simmers even after 33 years…

According to Lt-General (Retd.) KS Gill, army officers up to the rank of a captain were involved in the “fake encounter”. They kept visiting Chhatisinghpura for routine “checkups”. After obtaining full information about the Sikh, they lined them up and shot them dead one day.


US administration’s skepticism

The massacre coincided with the visit of United States president Bill Clinton to India. In March 2000, the US (under Bill Clinton) refused to accept the Indian government’s contention that it was the work of Pakistani Islamist groups.

Clinton explicitly condemned the massacre by “unknown groups,” and re-emphasised that point in his 2004 autobiography, My Life.

Similarly, in his 2004 book Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy, and the Bomb, Clinton’s aide Strobe Talbott confirmed Clinton’s misgivings about the massacre, pointing out that “he [Clinton] did not endorse the accusation that Pakistan was behind the violence since the US had no independent confirmation.”

In an introduction to a book written by Madeleine Albright titled The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs (2006), she accused “Hindu Militants” of perpetrating the act.

Read more: US court summons Modi & Amit Shah: Atrocities against Kashmiris & Sikhs

India’s blame game

Will India give justice to the families of the Chhattisgarh massacre? Even after a lapse of 20 years, the DNA-based investigation is incomplete. The involvement of the Indian army in fake encounters confirms that India itself is a state sponsor of terrorism.

It is unfortunate that India misses no opportunity to blame Pakistan and its agencies for terrorist incidents within its territory, or without.

Read more: Why India always accuses Pakistan for terrorism?

For instance, the Islamic State militant group killed some Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan. It accepted responsibility for the mayhem. Yet India blamed Pakistan and its intelligence agencies for the attack.

Several other fake encounters, besides the one at Pathribal, have been staged by the Indian army. In some cases, the army though immunized under Armed Forces’ Special Powers Act, allowed prosecution of offenders. The cases linger in civil courts until they fade from memory or criminals are acquitted with a slap on the wrist.

Mr Amjed Jaaved has been writing freelance for over five decades. He has served the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan for 39 years. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies and magazines at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is the author of eight e-books including The Myth of Accession. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.