Machil fake encounter: Why court-martial proceedings don’t impress Kashmiris?

Srinagar, December 29, 2013 (PPI-OT): In occupied Kashmir, the common people seem unimpressed over the court-martial of Indian troops involved in the infamous Machil fake encounter because of futility and secrecy of similar trials conducted in the past. Indian Army, in the recent past, held court-martial of its personnel involved in human rights violations in the territory. The accused were convicted in some cases, but the conviction was eventually overturned by civil courts. Making the procedure more dubious, the information about end result of the cases and culprits has never been made public.

Captain Ravinder Singh Tewatia, Company Commander of 12 Rashtriya Rifles (RR), was subjected to Summary General Court-Martial (SGCM) on charges of raping a woman and her daughter in Nowgam area Doda on February 14, 2000.

The secretly conducted SGCM found Tewatia guilty of rape and ordered his dismissal from service and seven years of imprisonment. Tewatia, however, challenged the SGCM ruling before the Jammu bench of the High Court, and had the sentence overturned. The court’s decision was again challenged by India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD), but the ultimate fate of the case and Tewatia wasn’t made public.

Two prominent human rights groups working in the occupied territory -International People’s Tribunal for Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK) and Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons – in their joint report on alleged perpetrators of human rights violations, have recorded that the MoD denied the information about the Tewatia case even under Right to Information (RTI) Act. “While responses were received, the documents were not provided for varied reasons,” reads the report.

The report, which is the only detailed document available on the subject, is mostly based on the information retrieved from government through RTIs. It provides an account of the court-martial cases wherein the culprits had the conviction overturned or the end-result was not made public.

The report says that Naik Harbhajan Singh and Rifleman Gurtej Singh of 1 RR faced court-martial for gang rape on a lady in Qazigund area of Islamabad in May 1994. In 2009, the puppet administration of occupied Kashmir attempted to try the culprits in a civil court, but was denied sanction by MoD to prosecute them.

The MoD had stated that they had been “tried by SGCM for an offence of rape and awarded the sentence to suffer rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and to be dismissed from service.” No one, however, knows whether the accused served the sentence, as Indian Army or MoD didn’t make it public.

The IPTK and APDP report suggests that while the victims are denied direct involvement in the proceedings, they are also kept ignorant of the final verdict, making the whole process doubtful.

The report points out that in 2010, the Gorkha Rifles of the Army carried out court-martial proceedings against Major V P Yadav. He was facing charges of abduction, torture and extra-judicial killing of a civilian, Abdul Rashid Butt of Kulangam, Handwara, in 1998. However, the report reads, the court-martial was carried out in Himachal Pradesh, making it impossible for witnesses to take part in the trial. “What transpired in the court-martial proceedings was not communicated to the family members of the victim,” the report adds.

In a similar case, Rifleman Mukesh Singh of 36 RR was tried in the Army court on charges of attempt to murder. Singh had shot at a civilian Manzoor Ahmad Wani of Islamabad, causing grievous injuries to the latter resulting in loss of his spleen and kidney. “Singh faced SGCM in 2008, but the victim has no knowledge of the findings of the court-martial,” the report said.

The MoD and India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that together control all armed forces of India have been reluctant to share information about the total number and status of the cases wherein court-martial was carried out. Consequently, the total number of cases that underwent court-martial is unknown.

The Indian Army has recently initiated court-martial proceedings against six of its personnel involved in the killing of three civilians in a fake encounter in Machil area of Kupwara in 2010. The victims were killed and passed off as foreign militants to get promotions and awards.

A court of inquiry by army has indicted a Colonel, a Major and four troopers of 4 Rajput Regiment in the case, and will now undergo court-martial. But given the history of court-martials in Jammu and Kashmir, people have less hope and more queries about the outcome of the proceedings in this case as well.

For more information, contact:
Kashmir Media Service
Email: info@kmsnews.org
Phone: 92-51-4435548, 4435549
Fax: 92-51-4861736

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