22 Years After the Massacre, Bijbehara Still Waiting for Justice

KL NEWS NETWORK

SRINAGAR

The victims of Oct 22, 1993 Bijbehara Massacre.
The victims of Oct 22, 1993 Bijbehara Massacre.

Twenty two years after the Bijbehara massacre, the government is yet to identify the people responsible. The government, then led by governor, had ordered a magisterial inquiry into the killings after the BSF unit that carried out the massacre was withdrawn.

While NHRC had taken cognizance of the massacre, state government had also initiated a magisterial inquiry. But in neither of the cases was any action taken. The massacre took place on October 22, 1993 when thousands of people came out to protest the siege of Dargah Hazratbal. The peaceful procession was fired upon by BSF personnel, posted in the highway town.

The enquiry report, (No. EN/BFC/93/23-24), prepared by the Enquiry Magistrate Bijbehara and submitted to the government on November 13, 1993 concluded that ‘firing on the procession is absolutely unprovoked and the BSF claim that they were forced to retaliate the firing of militants for self-defence is baseless and concocted’.

It said, “the security men have committed offence out of vengeance and their barbarous act was deliberate and well planned.” The report indicts Deputy Commandant of the BSF, JK Radola, for ‘tacit approval given by him to the indiscriminate and un-provoked firing’.

The report recommended ‘immediate dismissal of the accused persons’. It recommended that ‘this should be further followed up with the initiation of criminal proceedings against them and every effort should be made to ensure that justice is done and maximum possible punishment under the law of the land is awarded to the culprits’.

After orders passed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), 13 BSF men were charged with murder, but the subsequent General Security Force Court (GSFC) trial led to their acquittal.

When NHRC sought the transcripts of the trials for examination to satisfy itself that the BSF had made a genuine attempt to secure convictions, the then BJP government, headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, refused.

On November 1, 1993 the NHRC sent notices to the Ministry of Home Affairs, which controls the BSF. The Ministry subsequently sent to the NHRC a report on the incident based on the magisterial inquiry ordered by the state government as well as one based on the Staff Court of Inquiry ordered by the BSF, which claimed that disciplinary proceedings had been initiated against 14 BSF officials, but no details were provided.

On January 17 1994, the Commission, based on the government report, made recommendations that included immediate interim compensation to the victims’ families and that, apart from disciplinary proceedings under the Border Security Force Act, there should be parallel criminal prosecution proceedings based on the magisterial inquiry.

However, the Government of India did not respond positively to these recommendations.

Nearly three years after the NHRC had called for an action and on November 12, 1996, A K Tandon, then Director General of the BSF, informed the NHRC that “a General Security Force Court trial was conducted in respect of 12 BSF men involved in the incident,” but that results of the trial were “being withheld for the time being.” The BSF had initially claimed that it had acted against the accused, but the only available information available about this is that a sub-inspector who the BSF told the NHRC had been found not guilty.

According to press reports, all those charged with murder were acquitted by the General Security Force Court.

The Home and Defence Ministries refused access to the case files of the Court Martial to NHRC. In September 2000 the NHRC finally dismissed the case without dispensing justice to the victims and their families.

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