Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) on Thursday said while the arrest of a former Ikhwani Wali Mohammad Mir by Jammu Kashmir Police on Tuesday is a welcome step, it remains to be seen whether justice will be delivered to the victims of the Sadarkoot Bala massacre.
The arrest of Mir is the only arrest made in the case so far, JKCCS said in a statement.
The other two accused include former Ikhwani Rashid Billa, who was killed by unknown gunmen in April 2017 (while he was absconding) and his associate Mohammad Ayoob Dar, who is still at large, it said.
The statement further said: “All three were the main accused in the massacre of seven civilians at Saderkoot Bala village in Bandipora on October 5, 1996. On the evening of October 5, 1996, a posse of armed Ikhwanis – led by Rashid Billa – arrived at the home of one Ghulam Qadir Dar, an NC worker and shot dead four members of his family. The Ikhwanis went on to kill three more people in Saderkoot-Bala village and then escaped. The victims included children and women. An FIR was filed against the Ikhwanis, naming Rashid Billa and two others as the main accused.”
“As the police had completely failed to act against the accused Ikhwanis who were roaming freely and on one occasion kidnapped Dar, the victim families filed a writ petition in April 2014 in Jammu Kashmir High Court demanding their arrest. The petition is still pending in the high court, with one of the main accused killed, the other arrested and third still at large.”
The third accused in the case Mohammad Ayoob Dar continued working with the Territorial Army unit of the Indian army, JKCCS said adding that “the collusion of Indian Army and police with these Ikhwanis is well known”.
“Many of the former Ikhwanis were later on assimilated into Territorial Army and into SOG of Jammu and Kashmir Police and continue working under these units and some joined pro-India political parties. In this instant case, which has not been investigated by the police and during the time of this crime their actions were directly controlled by the Army. Therefore, the role of the Army must be investigated,” the group said.
JKCCS said the families of the Saderkoot massacre have repeatedly demanded their arrest and have sought justice for the victims. However, the police have completely failed to act in the last 23 years with the result the families are unable to find any closure.
“The Saderkoot case is amongst the rarest cases where the judiciary’s assertive role saw some progress in the case, but the police investigation into the case has only been abysmal,” it said.
“For instance, in the case of the third accused Mohammad Ayoob Dar, police in their status report filed before JK High Court have stated their inability to arrest Dar as ‘he works with the army’. The way this case has been handled by police only goes on to show how justice is a far gone dream for the families of the victims. It is expected that with Mir’s arrest, some modicum of justice is served and the accused are punished,” it added.
“It remains our steadfast hope that truth will be established and in future, the perpetrators will be exposed and brought to justice, including those Ikhwanis against whom FIRs are filed but who continue to roam freely,” JKCCS said.