In December 1994, Human Rights Day dawned and merged with dusk like any other day then in Kashmir – gripped with palpable fear and uncertainty. There were no scheduled public gatherings. There were no commemorations. And there were almost no observances held against human rights violations in the valley, given the threatening situation around.
That day Khazir Mohammad Aakhoon, a driver from Wethpora Srinagar, like many others, preferred to stay indoors to save his skin from the wrath of forces stationed on the streets, inside bunkers and on the road sides.
But four days later, he could no longer save himself. Brutally dragged out of his home in the dead of the night, he was killed mercilessly…
It was late evening of December 14. Streets and roads had assumed a haunted look. Some dogs were barking occasionally to shatter the silence of the night. Sand bunkers ringed with concertina wires and dotted with empty wine bottles were default night watchmen. Inside bunkers, forces stood alert, guarding the dark streets with fingers on cocked-guns.
A few steps away, Aakhoon house was dimly lit like many surrounding houses. And under the faded light, family members were talking in hushed tones, quite aware that their loud vocals might irk forces stationed inside bunkers.
And then, suddenly some noises were heard near the main door of Aakhoon house. The incoming sounds were enough to numb female members with fear. All faces inside the house turned pale with fright. The male counterparts were equally terrified, yet were attempting to mask up brave faces. And then somebody shouted near the door while knocking it violently: “Darwaaza kholoo (Open the door).” The elder of the house stepped forward to unbolt the door.
It was N. Vidya Sagar, 2nd Lieutenant 125th Battalion J&K Light Infantry Army, who was standing tall with his men on other side of the door. In that haunting night, Sagar was blood thirsty. He wanted to spill blood inside the dark cover. He pushed the elder of Aakhoon family aside and barged into the house. His entry filled the room with shrieks and wails.
Women pleaded before him in broken Urdu: “Sahab Ji, hum ne kuch nahi kiya (Sir, we are innocents).” The pleading voices were heart-wrenching. But Lieutenant didn’t move. He grabbed the son of Aakhoons and dragged him outside the home quite mercilessly. The family raised cries, but no one from the neighbourhood came to their rescue for obvious reasons. Khazir was taken to an isolated location nearby and after half an hour, his family heard gun shots. His bullet perforated body was left abandoned in the dark cover with blood oozing thick and fast from his body defying the chill of December.
In that night, nobody dared to step out of their homes. And at the crack of the dawn when the grieved family stepped out, they found their son lying dead over the thick red layer. The fears which had crossed their minds throughout the night had now turned into a reality. Their son was terminated for the offense which is still mystery for them. After momentarily mourning, the painful void left behind in Aakhoon family got never healed.
What followed after the murder was a clear case of delaying and subsequently, denying the justice.
The same day, the slain man’s brother lodged an FIR no. 384/1994 u/s 364 [Kidnapping/ Abducting to murder], 354 [Assault / Criminal force to a woman with an intent to outrage modesty], 457, 307 [Attempt to murder], 427 [Mischief causing damage of Rs 50 and upwards], 302 [Murder] Ranbir Penal Code, 1989 [RPC] at Sadder Police Station, Srinagar.
The Police record reveals that investigation was closed as charge-sheet and sanction for prosecution under Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1990 [AFSPA] was sought.
The available documents from the Ministry of Defense do not mention this case at all. Thereby, suggesting that the case was never received on their end. If at all received, the Ministry of Defense has taken 16 years to process the grant or decline the sanction.
Subjected to abduction and extra-judicial killing, the family of Khazir Mohammad Aakhoon is still awaiting justice, which is too reluctant to show up.
The case clearly reflects the conduct of the Ministry of Defence suggesting that even crimes committed by armed forces personnel outside their official duty continue to be shielded by AFSPA.