Machil encounter killings: Sold to the army for Rs 50,000 plus a bottle of whiskey
Four years after the 2010 Machil fake encounter, families of the three youth who were killed by the Indian Army in a fake encounter may finally find some form of closure. On Thursday, a military court sentenced five army men to life imprisonment. In the wake of the verdict, a number of details about the killings have become public, exposing an ugly system of incentives that makes such tragedies all but inevitable.
The Army's initial version was that the three youth - Shezad Ahmad, Riyaz Ahmad and Mohammad Shafi of Nadihal were militants who were trying to infiltrate into India, but the investigation revealed a far nastier truth.
This article in The Indian Express shows how the youth were literally sold off by a civilian counter-insurgent Bashir Ahmad Lone and his friend Abdul Hamid who told the victims -- who came from poor families -- that they would be paid Rs 2,000 a day for some form of work along the LoC.
Lone and Hamid received Rs 50,000 each from the army and a bottle of whisky for services rendered.
In turn, as a reward for the 'successful encounter', the 4 Rajputana Rifles unit received a cash reward of Rs 6 lakh and a citation. A week after the encounter, they moved out of the locality, The Indian Express reports.
The crime would have gone undetected, dismisses as yet another encounter killing in the valley, if it were not for an alert police, as this report in DNA points out.
The army claimed they found AK47s, ammunition as well as Pakistani currency notes in the victims' possession. However, when the disfigured bodies were handed over to the police, they realised that the youth were wearing Indian made slippers and inner-wear, leading the police to suspect the Army's version of the incident. The bodies of the youth were then exhumed and identified by their families leading to widespread protests in the Valley in which over 120 people were killed.
The Indian Express reports that it was Fayaz Wani, a close friend of one of the victims, Shezad Khan, who helped crack the case. While filing a missing report, Shezad's family told police officials that they recalled his conversation with Wani, where he had said that he (Shezzad) was on his way to Kalaroos after Army officials had asked him to accompany them. After tracking their location, the police picked up Bashir Ahmad Lone, a counter-insurgent who revealed that the men had indeed gone with an Army officer.
Police chargesheeted nine people in July 2010 including six Army personnel but handed over the probe to the Army after it was assured of holding a detailed inquiry into the incident.
The police charge sheet had named Col Pathania, Captain Upender and four others of the unit besides a Territorial Army jawan and two others for allegedly conspiring and kidnapping three youths on the pretext of giving them jobs and later killing them.
In July 2012, the Sopore chief judicial magistrate allowed the Army to try its 9 personnel in a military court. More than two years later, the army court sentenced the five to life imprisonment and exonerated four others. The five army men include the then Col DK Pathania, who was the Commanding Officer, and Captain Upendera. They were held guilty by the Summary General Court Martial (SGCM). The others were Havaldar Devinder, Lance Naik Lakhmi and Lance Naik Arun Kumar. Another accused, a Subedar, has been let off by the SGCM.
But what will finally give the families some closure is seeing the two men who handed over their sons to the Army get the toughest punishment.
"The families of (Bashir and Hamid) are still trying to save themselves as their trial is going on in the civil court. I will be relieved only when those two are awarded death sentences... We will get justice only when those two are hanged," Mohammad Yosuf, father of Shahzad told IE.
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