Poonch families of Sailan and Mohara Bachai massacres protest in Kashmir
On the 17th anniversary of Sailan massacre in Poonch district of Jammu, the relatives of the victims decried inordinate delay in justice and vowed to continue their struggle for bringing the accused to book.
The relatives mostly survivors of the brutal massacre in which 19 people including 11 children of three families were killed allegedly by four Special Police Officers (SPOs) and personnel of 9 Paratroopers of Indian Army on August 3, 1998 night recounted the incident with tearful eyes during a silent protest in Press Enclave Srinagar. “From Poonch we arrived in Srinagar to expose the killers and narrate our ordeal,” the protesters said.
The protesters said that less than a year after the Sailan massacre, on 29 June 1999, 15 members of related families were killed in Mohra Bachai, Poonch District. “The houses of the families were razed to ground and burnt with the bodies of the dead inside. Once again the accused were the Indian Army, SPO’s and then Superintendent of Police (Poonch) J.P.Singh. As in the Sailan case where the CBI has sought to cover up the case, it appears the police have also ensured a cover up in the Mohra Bachai case,” they told CNS.
The family members of the murdered Sailan people said day before the massacre, unidentified gunmen had killed an SPO Zakir Ahmad of Sailan on Mughal road. They said the personnel from 9 Paratroopers accused their relative, Imtiaz Ahmad, who was a militant for the killing.
“Zakir worked as an informer for Army. The Army personnel had threatened Imtiaz’s family to face consequences for Zakir’s killing. To save their lives, Imtiaz’s family took refuge in two houses including mine. During night, SPOs, Muhammad Younis alias Tiger and Muhammad Rafiq alias Pathan, who were close associates of Zakir asked for whereabouts of Imtiaz ,” said Abdul Ahad, a witness.
Ahad said the SPOs thrashed Imtiaz’s brother Maqsood forcing him to reveal whereabouts of his family members.
“Tiger and Pathan were joined by army personnel. They barged into my house and made 20 inmates including my family members to sit on floor like school children,” said Shabir Ahmad another witness.
“An officer wearing a cap and jacket severely tortured Imtiaz’s father. Tiger fired upon his legs and his family rushed to the spot to save him. My father caught hold of the army officer’s collar who directed Tiger to open fire on him. In the melee I escaped from a small door trap toward maize fields,” “After 10 minutes I heard cries of my family members. My worst fears turned true after I heard single gunshots after intervals. The forces abruptly left my house however I remained in maize field for whole night,” he said.
Mustering courage Shabir said he went inside the house in morning. “I was shocked to see piles of bodies hacked and mutilated, severed arms, legs and hands were lying in pool of blood. I shivered on seeing an axe embedded in my younger sister Javida’s hip,” said Shabir.
“I fainted on seeing my pregnant sister Zarina’s abdomen hacked with unborn baby’s arm standing out,” he said.
Shabir’s brother, Muhammad Latief who was 24 years old then accused the police and Army of trying to destroy the evidence including bodies after the incident. “However locals foiled their evil plans and buried the bodies,” he said.
“A week after the massacre, the then Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, visited the area to know facts about the incident. I categorically told him (Farooq) ‘your dreaded men executed the massacre of innocents.’ Ironically, despite evidence and passing of 17 years we are still awaiting justice. (CNS)