Six get life in Machil fake encounter: All you need to know about the 2010 incident

Here's what you need to know about the 2010 Machil fake encounter, for which six soldiers received life sentences on Monday

FP Staff September 08, 2015 14:34:42 IST
Six get life in Machil fake encounter: All you need to know about the 2010 incident

An Army court martial on Monday announced life sentences to six soldiers found guilty in the 2010 Machil fake encounter case.

The life sentences for Colonel Dinesh Pathania, Captain Opendra, Havildar Devender Kumar, Lance Naik Arun Kumar, Lance Naik Lakhmi, and rifleman Abas Hussain — announced in 2013 — were confirmed on Monday, in the first case of Army personnel being punished for human rights abuse in the Kashmir Valley.

The Hindu reports that the decision came “two years after the Army sought the transfer of the case to a court martial on the ground that the accused were on active duty”. As a result, it was within the Army’s jurisdiction to initiate proceedings before any other court in the country.

So what were the events of 29 April 2010 that led to these sentences being handed out?

Six get life in Machil fake encounter All you need to know about the 2010 incident

Representational image. Reuters

The incident

In the early hours of 29 April, the Army claimed to have foiled an effort by militants to infiltrate the Line of Control (LoC) near Kupwara in Kashmir. Outlook had quoted Defence Spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel JS Brar as saying that a group of three militants were shot dead by troops who had “probably… tried to use the bad weather conditions to sneak in”.

Nearly a month later, however, reports emerged after the corpses of the ‘militants’ were exhumed, that they were no infiltrators. In fact, they were Shahzad Ahmad Khan, Mohammad Shafi Lone and Riyaz Ahmad Lone — residents of Nadihal in Sopore, who had been lured to work as porters for the Army on the promise of high wages. They were later killed, and passed off as foreign militants, ostensibly to claim a cash reward. The Indian Express had reported at the time that the police had arrested three persons in connection with the by-then-established fake encounter.

The report quoted then chief ninister Omar Abdullah as saying, that the Army was conducting a “high-level internal probe to inquire into the incident transparently and book anybody if found guilty”. The Indian Express also quoted Lt Col Brar confirming this by saying that “a fast track inquiry to ascertain the facts" and "expeditious action to bring guilty to book" were underway.

The fallout

As news of the fake nature of the encounter began to spread, protests broke out in Srinagar, resulting in clashes with police over around four months that saw 110 civilians killed and 537 injured, while 1,247 CRPF men and 2,747 police personnel were injured, according to a DNA report. Amidst this, in July, an indefinite military curfew was declared in all the major towns of the Kashmir Valley for the first time in 10 years.

With no end to police/military-civilian violence in sight, then prime minister Manmohan Singh in August appealed for “non-lethal, yet effective and more focused” crowd control measures, according to The Hindu. Furthermore, in September, the Central government put together a 39-member all-parties delegation of MPs to meet with various stakeholders, including separatist leaders from the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), in Srinagar.

“The parliamentary affairs minister will send around 30 to 40 invitation letters to various groups and individuals in Kashmir over the weekend. Several separatist leaders are in this list,” said a government official at the time to Hindustan Times.

As it turned out, leaders of the APHC declined to attend the meeting, choosing instead to issue a joint memorandum from its leaders Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Faarooq that included the Conference’s observation that:

We have seen in the past that it is only when a major crisis erupts that visible efforts are made to engage and understand our aspirations. And as soon as the immediate crisis subsides, the demonstrated and inherent political complacency and negligence is restored           

The aftermath

On Christmas Day in 2013 — nearly three-and-a-half years after ordering an inquiry — the Army ordered court martial proceedings against five of its personnel. Eleven months later (in November 2014), the Army sentenced them to life imprisonment, The Hindu reported.

Abdullah had welcomed the decision tweeting:

At the time, Rifleman Hussain of the Territorial Army had been exonerated, despite having been the one to lure the three victims to the Army camp with the promise of jobs. The Indian Express reports that it took an intervention from General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command, Lieutenant-General DS Hooda to ensure that all six were sentenced on Monday.

An army officer from the Srinagar-based 15 Corps told The Indian Express that “The Machil encounter had put at stake the image of the Army. It sent out a signal to the world that a few greedy men had killed three innocent people to earn medals. The verdict has brought the case to its logical conclusion”.

Although the sextet can challenge the verdict in the Armed Forces Tribunal, they are to be dismissed from their posts and sent to jail for 14 years.

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