Army killed villagers, then fudged DNA tests

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2005, 12:00am

Soldiers claimed the innocent men were Pakistani militants who murdered Sikhs

Troops hunting terrorists killed and buried Indian civilians and passed them off as Pakistani militants responsible for killing Sikhs in Kashmir, an investigation has revealed.

When villagers' protests led to the bodies being exhumed, the army doctored DNA tests to show that the remains were those of militants from across the border, India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said in its final report.

The bureau has accused four army officers of killing innocent people.

When US President Bill Clinton visited India in March 2000, 35 Sikhs were killed in Chattisinghpura village in Kashmir by suspected Islamic militants in army uniforms.

India blamed Pakistan-based terrorists for the attack.

Four days later, 17 Muslim residents from three neighbouring villages went missing. Simultaneously, reports emerged that five Pakistani terrorists involved in the massacre had been killed by the army.

New Delhi praised the army for the 'prompt and smart action'.

Juma Khan, a 45-year-old resident of Brari Angan village, was picked up by soldiers without any explanation. Police said they had no knowledge of the arrest.

'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, the army said five 'foreign militants' had been shot dead by army sharpshooters during a 'ferocious encounter'.

The army buried the bodies before autopsies were conducted. From clothing and personal items recovered at the burial sites, villagers ascertained that the five were among the missing villagers.

As violent protests erupted, the local 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.

Although killed in an 'encounter' another had no bullet marks on it at all. The chopped-off nose and chin of one shepherd was discovered in another's grave.

Farooq Abdullah, who was the chief minister of the state, 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.

The government suspended the doctors who had collected the samples, and a new team, headed by a senior police officer, collected fresh blood samples in April 2002.

The CBI found that the doctors tampered with the first set of DNA samples because of pressure from the army. In its report, the agency said that the doctors should be reinstated in their jobs.