National Interest, Fifth Column and The Romantic Killers

Shahnawaz Alam for BeyondHeadlines

Finally, after about five years the Machil fake encounter case has come to a judicial conclusion though partially with a military court sentencing its 6 officers to life imprisonment. The fake encounter was staged on 29 April 2010 in which three innocent local youths were killed by the army men in the guise of foreign militants trying to infiltrate. The incident proved the ignition point for the ‘intifada’ in which more than 120 kashmiri youths were killed and which revealed Indian diplomatic weakness to tackle such incidents owing to its over dependency on bullet power. On the other hand, it proved a much needed catalyst for the other gun holders, which saw new and fresh faces turning towards them. The military court has sentenced its officers under sections of IPC 302 (murder), 364 (abduction), 120 B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intent) of the Jammu and Kashmir Ranbir Penal Code. However, the convicted personnel have the option to knock the high court against the verdict.

The tone of the debate in public domain (media) on this verdict revolved amid two poles- justice is finally done to the victim families and it’s a substantiate punishment for the culprits for what they did for promotion and medals. Some newspapers even carried photographs and statements of the victim families. This whole endeavor makes it appear a bilateral matter between two sets of individuals, devoid of anything political or ideological. But was it really so, and is this approach justified considering the very complexity of the Kashmir situation which is anything but pure political. Or, is this approach just a political tool in itself, employed to eyewash the lethal political reality by demeaning and diluting a politically motivated crime to just ‘crime’?

To argue my point, I ask just one question. Why not even a single newspaper, while reporting the verdict, mentioned that the staged killings occurred just a day after the meeting of the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in Bhutan’s capital city of Thimpu?

Is there any other reason in this, apart from keeping away the political motive of the crime from public scrutiny? Is it not an another example of impunity given by the media to the politically motivated killers by just terming it a simple brutal crime and thus saving the political system from whose book the killers took out the leaf. This approach in a very shrewd and delicate way tries to dissect from the institutionalized violence of the state, the individual endeavors to imitate the same. That is something like parting the leaf from the tree and asking someone to believe that they are totally different entities, not even remotely related.

This postmodern and deconstructionist approach to deliver justice is one of the main tools through which our state safeguards its vital interests. It on one hand guarantees total impunity to itself and on the other looks in Solomon’s seat punishing its own foot soldiers for doing what they have learnt from it. This tactics of the world’s largest democracy in delivering justice is evident clearly in any communal violence cases. It’s for this reason, we don’t see any mitigation in communal violence cases though many individuals are booked for this in their individual capacity as rioters by the state machinery which is itself majoritarianist and communally biased, and with whose support only, be it sometime imaginative, the individual unleashes its ‘statesmanship’ which romanticizes killing the ‘others’, the muslims in mainland India and Kashmiri muslims in Kashmir. That’s why we witness paradoxically both- justice and continuance of injustice, coexisting together in state’s protection. It is up to you what you see. In the Machil case, the state wants us to see the first, to hide the second.

That’s why it is needed to ask the state- what made the killers choose the occasion of Manmohan-Gilani meet to commit the crime? Doesn’t it shows their political maturity because they very well knew that it would be taken as just another ‘napak harkat’ (unethical crime) of Pakistan which at ones poses of coming to the dialogue table and renegades at the same by infiltration, the dictum their own department will endorse. As was evident from the press statement issued by the defence spokesperson Lt. Col JS Brar, which declares ‘troops noticed movement of separatist guerillas near the LOC trying to infiltrate to this side. The terrorists were challenged following which they opened fire. The fire was returned, triggering a gunfire which ended after the group of three infiltrators were killed. Searches in the area are continuing arms and ammunition have been recovered from the slain guerillas.’ [1]

How, if any agency which oaths to do justice, not book Lt Col Brar? Shouldn’t he be booked for misleading and providing logistic support to killers by issuing criminally false statements? And is it not that these type of statements are the real impunity providers which create an environment in which politically motivated killers commit Machils and Pathribals, and also lend logic to the communally charged people to enjoy these ‘romantic’ killings by believing blindly to the military versions. Or why Mr Brar not booked even under section 201 of the IPC which schedules it a criminal act if anyone in know of the crime hides it or doesn’t inform police?

Yes, it was not done. Because justice was not to be done in totality as total justice would have totally bared the state. And in case where justice is discharged in fractions it is not in proportion to the crime. How the sections of IPC regarding murder, abduction, criminal conspiracy and common intent of the Ranbir Penal Code could be held appropriate for this highly political crime which was motivated from state’s own anti Pakistan rhetoric and which tried to use the same as shield? Is it possible to provide justice in these type of cases without having sections in IPC to book perpetrators who unleash havoc in the shield of national interest? Exactly no. And any judicial reform commission is not going  to propose this either as it would challenge the very logic of India as a nation. Yes, ‘we the people’ are structurely damned to get injustice.

Thus, these fractured justices are assurance that Machil type injustices would continue, as they have to continue-  in ‘national interest’.

Yes. The ‘national interest’ is the main obstacle between justice and the state’s people. The people whose majority on communal, historical, political and experience basis do not consider itself part of the Indian nation and whose minorities (Sikhs and hindus who has been monolithically coined ‘Pandits’ as if no other hindu caste lives there and as if only they are patriots and therefore on terrorist’s targets as other hindus like dalits and OBC have friendly relations with the ultras) are seen as the ‘fifth column’ by the hindu majoritarian Indian state, resulting injustice to every section- perpetration of staged encounters of local muslims, orchestration of massacres of hindus and Sikhs.

That’s why, we witness Nadimarg type of massacres where on 23 march 2003, 24 hindus were brutally killed by the men in army uniform. For which the Indian state was quick to blame Pakistan sponsored militants, who in turn denied the allegations but not without points. Because in any conflict zone where more than one militant group operates, taking responsibility of any ambush done by them is the only thing called political action. After all, their politics is limited to this much only. Also, it is the only criterion they can score over other militant groups to prove their ‘people’ of themselves as the main champion of the ‘cause’.  But contrary to all this, the militant groups denied their role which put the ‘burden of proof’ on Indian state’s head, for which it was really unbearable. And under pressure of discharging its very own kind of justice, it killed Abdul Sultan, Anwar Ali and an anonymous branding them ‘masterminds’ of the massacre in Mumbai’s Goregaon area on 29 march 2003.[2] Then it was the turn of one ‘Lashkar terrorist’ Zia Mustafa alias Arbaz alias Abdullah Umar to be nabbed as the ‘mastermInd’ on 10 april 2003[3] which was followed by another ‘mastermind’  of Pak origin and finally it was the ‘legendary’ Manzoor Zahid Chaudhary. ‘Legandary’ because in a ‘hurriedly’ arranged press conference on 9 august 2003, claiming to have killed him in an encounter, he was not attributed by the BSF DIG K Srinivasan for Nadimarg massacre only but also of more than 6 other terror attacks including Akshardham temple attack, as per his half a dozen aliases.[4] Though according to an another report, Chaudhary was killed in BSF’s custody on 8 august 2003.[5] With so many ‘masterminds’ as was bound to happen, Indian state was licking its own foot. Sanjay K Tickoo, one of the brave souls who refused to runaway amid terror threats in those gunny days and leader of the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, has this to say ’nothing have been done to book the perpetrators except one Pakistani national was made scapegoat of this incident with a cover of weak investigation and evidences by the puppet administration’.[6] He further hits ‘during the past 25 years, Kashmiri pandits, like Kashmiri  muslims, had lost faith in all the Indian agencies including the Indian judiciary, Indian police and Indian political parties’.[7] And what the ‘elected’ representative of the state has to respond to? Pose the same question with a big question mark, ‘It is a serious and pertinent question why the probe has not been completed ’.[8]

Whenever a question is answered by making the question appear more serious by power centers, it is in fact a very serious effort to deny the answer. A tactics Indian state has mastered in employing to hide its nudeness.

Here also it was used to hide the truth because truth, as its universal nature is, is against the ‘national interest’- it too occurred when Indo-Pak dialogue was in the pipeline after a massive mobilization of military on both side of the border. As says Parvez Khurram, one of the most credible voice of an valley of incredible beauty where credibility is seized to be dubious, ‘India- Pakistan dialogue was on at that time and some significant things were happening and whenever it appears that something important is about to happen, things like targeting the minorities or fake encounter occur ’.[9]

So, 24 hindus, assumed to be the ‘fifth columns’ by the Indian state in any conflict with the majority muslims were killed with a political motive to derail the peace process. But who did it, who were the forces who did not wanted the two neighbors to resume peace- the Pakistan sponsored terror organizations or the Indian security agencies itself? Because there is no third party and if it is, it operates through these two only.

The option to pick the first has weak grounds as they already had denied their hands and if they really have done it, Indian agencies would not have been obligated to kill and catch a new ‘mastermind’ each time, as Sanjay K Tickoo says to ‘satisfy’ them.

Thus, the second option comes naturally under scrutiny whose role appears dubious because according to eyewitnesses of this massacre the killers were in army uniform but their boots were civilian and they spoke fluently in kashmiri language.[10]

It must be noted that the number of locals in the army deployed in the region is very minimal, they are mainly from the other states and use hindi or hindustani language, very different from Kashmiri. It is the ‘ikhwanis’ (the local ex militants who fight from army’s side and who are accused of staged killings and for providing ‘fodders’ for the fake encounters) who talk in the local kashmiri language. Other than that, the army men when in uniform do not wear civilian boots and again it is the ikhwanis, the semi military men who wear civilian boots to easily mix up in the multitude for espionage.

Thus the possibility of Indian military involvement is more than obvious, which probably wanted to derail the peace process because any political solution will limit or end military’s importance. And nobody is here to loose it’s importance, as everyone loves a good conflict zone.

And it was not a seldom act. It is a routine phenomenon, not confined to bilateral international developments only but equally responsive to internal politics also, which rarely gets caught red handed. As it happened once- ‘if sources are to be believed the confiscation of weapons and ammunition just before the UPA president Sonia Gandhi’s Kashmir visit was part of a conspiracy hatched by CRPF after which Mrs Gandhi’s proposed visit on Friday was cancelled. According to a report the consignment included 3 kilogram of RDX, 2 Chinies grenades, 1 grenade launcher, 2 detonators, 7 bullets of AK-47, 4 bullets of Pikagun, 1 wireless set and a mobile phone charger. State’s home department has summoned report from CRPF director general GC Dabas who has been rebuked’.[11]

So what, if Indian state’s role is more than obvious in massacring hindus, its ‘first class’ citizens? Nothing. Really nothing. Because it is just a kind of friendly ambush on a fifth column to siege the common enemy- the muslims be it local or foreigner. It is the ‘sacred’ and ‘nationalistic’ diplomatic price they have to pay to a majoritarian hindutva state just for the anti muslim spiritual subscription it offers them. Yes, the ‘fifth columns’ are damned to silently weep, their tears should not come out in national interest lest Pakistan will get the upper hand. They shouldn’t ask more questions because Pakistan will start answering more.

Yes, the ‘fifth columns’ have no one to hear as Sanjay K Tickoo says ‘both mainstream and separatist leaders were talking about massacres like Gawa Kadal, they are not vocal about Nadimarg….had separatists given a call on Nadimarg masacre, the message would have been different’.[12]

Yes, for any political and ethical solution of the Kashmir problem, the ‘fifth columns’ (hindus and sikhs) must be first rescued from the clutches of a majoritarianist state which uses them as reverse human shield, which is even more heinous in view of war crimes scale also. Because in human shield strategy the shield gets hit from front by the foe but in reverse version, it gets hit from behind by the alleged friend.

That is pure betrayal. And that’s how the Sikhs of Chattisinghpora, a beautiful hamlet of Anantnag (for locals it is still Islamabad, the old and the real name) were also betrayed and made scapegoat in ‘national interest’ exactly two years before the hindus of Nadimarg, with four obvious agendas- three international and one pure swadeshi of Jagmohan model. First, to score point over Pakistan in international forums. Second, to gain sympathy and support of the sikh diaspora living in US and Europe who had been politically anti Indian establishment since the Khalistan days and third, ‘to eclipse at least initially, attempts by the US to raise its concerns, with India about nuclear proliferation in the region’.[13]

And on the swadeshi front, it was to be used to provoke the Sikhs to migrate from the valley as was done with the hindus when Governor Jagmohan a known RSS fellow, used the insurgency problem to further communalise the Kashmir issue by orchestrating mass vacation of the valley’s hindus which changed the century old composite demography of the region, the very basis of Kashmiriyat (the society’s immunity to any sectarian politics), paving the way for further deterioration of the now mostly muslim populated valley, and to venom its anti muslim propaganda through the ‘victimized’ fifth colum’s mouth across India in the name of Kashmiri Migrant Pandits. But the Sikhs payed no heeds, and even frustrated the Indian state’s plan by rejecting bluntly the Home minister LK Advani’s offer of special protective measures for them, telling straightly ‘the muslim majority had not been hostile to them before and that no protection was needed’.[14]

Reporting the massacre which occurred on 20 March 2000, the day before US president Bill Clinton’s India visit in which 36 sikhs were killed and which was also the first ever attack on sikhs in Kashmir, Frontline, quoted people telling “as they started firing, the gunmen shouted ‘Jai Mata Di’ and ‘Jai Hind’. In the theatrical fashion, one of them took swigs from a bottle of rum even as the killing went on. While leaving, one of the men called out to his associates; ‘Gopal chalo hamare saath’ (come with us Gopal)”.[15] And according to another report, the sole survivor Nanak Singh Aulakh has this to say ‘A unit of Indian paramilitary Rashtriya Rifles stationed nearby failed to intervene during the attack….the attackers were led by a man they addressed as ‘commanding officer’.[16]

Now guess, which religion has names like Gopal? Will a Islamist jihadi claiming to fight ‘kafirs’ to bring ‘Nizame Mustafa’ (Allah’s rule) in muslim majority Kashmir, swig wine, strictly prohibited in Islam? Who hails ‘Jai Mata Di’ or ‘Jai Hind’, pro Pakistan muslim terrorists? Why an Indian army contingent, the ‘sole’ custodian of the alleged nation, stationed nearby kept criminal loathness even as its people were massacred by the ‘enemy’? Is not the term ‘commanding officer’ a regular army word used in commissioned based official army setups and exactly not in guerilla militias?

I know you need indefinite time to guess because answers to these straight puzzles are not in ‘national interest’. But guess, who guessed it first?

It was none other than Bill Clinton himself. Writing foreword to Madeline Albright’s book ‘The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and world Affairs he says ‘During my visit to India in 2000, some hindu militants decided to vent their outrage by murdering 38 sikhs in cold blood. If I hadn’t made the trip, the victims would probably still be alive. If I hadn’t made the trip because I feared what religious extremists might do, I couldn’t have done my job as president of the United States’.[17] Though, after hue and cry by the hindutva hooligans, this part of the foreword was deleted by the publisher. But it was what he believed, confirms his aide Strobe Talbott in his book ‘Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb’, ‘He did not endorse the accusation that Pakistan was behind the violence….‘.[18]

But that was not the only indicating proof of the Indian hand, there were much more. As, the killing of five muslim youths in Pathribal branding them perpetrators of the Sikh’s massacre five days after the massacre, turned out to be staged, and the two Pakistanis Md Suhail and Wasim Ahmad who were arrested in December 2000 as ‘mastermind’ of the massacre got acquitted and found innocent. Then who did it?

Yes, they did it who blocked every possibility of its investigation. But who were they, guess again?

According to Frontline, ‘On 31 october 2000 Jammu Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah announced that the retired Supreme Court judge S. Ratnavel Pandian would be asked to investigate the massacre. Asked if he had sought New Delhi’s consent, to institute such an inquiry, the Chief Minister defiantly asserted that he needed no one’s permission to do so. Then, suddenly it all changed again. One fortnight and a single meeting with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee later, the promised investigation of the Chattisinghpora was terminated…..officials in New Delhi say that the union government was furious at the decision to inquire into Chattisinghpora. Vajpayee is believed to have told the Chief Minister that his action had embarrassed the union government’.[19] [20]

SO, it was Mr Vajpayee the swaimsevak Prime Minister, who had once emerged to say after his meeting with Clinton ‘it was part of a pattern of “ethnic cleansing” that had “been underway for a decade” aimed at driving non-muslims out of Kashmir…we have the means and will to eliminate this menace’,[21] who was embarrassed and afraid of the truth coming out. Guess, to which parivar Mr Vajpayee belonged?

But denial of investigation in the Sikh’s massacre was just the half part of the Indian state’s grand injustice design, the investigation and findings of the Pathribal encounter which termed it fake, was the other complimentary part. A classical shrewd strategy employed by the majoritarianist  state to proliferate its devil designs. A mystery the likes of semi baptized politicians like MS Gills could never interpret who had once asked innocently ‘if the state government could call for a CBI probe into the deaths of five youths who were held responsible for the killings a similar probe could not be ordered into the massacre itself. Did the death of five people outweigh that of 40 others that no need for a CBI inquiry was felt. Why has the role of the army and the state police not been examined in the case.[22]

The answer lies in this plain dictum. The findings of Pathribal fake encounter will satisfy the hindu conscience that rejoices the romantic killings of the innocent kashmiri muslims, the pleasure Indian state have to provide them regularly to rejuvenate their anti muslim devil instinct, the ideological pillar of Indian ‘patriotism’, be it comes at the cost of notoriety on human right grounds or its very legitimacy. Because it just can’t survive without it. In other words Indian state’s very survival depends on consistent questioning of its legitimacy by the muslims. A must ‘national interest’ catalyst. Because to kill muslims is in ‘national interest’ or probably this is the (only) ‘national interest’. But the findings of Sikh’s killings would have proved disastrous to ‘national interest’ because that would have made Indian state’s legitimacy dubious in majority communities itself. Thus muslims are fortunate enough to get selective though fractured justice in these situations because their injustice makes the state more hard and decisively strong ie.. sashakt, but the fifth columns are not as much fortunate.

But that generosity of the state should not be confused with any compromise with it’s policy of non deliverance of total justice. That’s why we find that the main mastermind of the Pathribal fake encounter, the SSP of Anantnag, Farook Khan’s name was deleted by the CBI though according to other culprits ‘operation was ordered on the basis of information provided by the SSP of Anantnag’.[23] Thus, here also the main conspirator was escorted free. But guess who was he? He was the grandson of Col. Peer Mohammad, Jammu & Kashmir’s first state president of Jansangh, the earlier avatar of BJP. And guess what Mr Farook did after retirement? Joined BJP in presence of Narendra Modi on 26 march 2014 in Kathua’s election rally.

 Is anything more remains to be guessed?

(The writer is freelance journalist, documentary film maker and civil rights activist. The views of the author are personal.)


[1]  Three terrorists killed in Kashmir, DNA 30 April 2010. http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-three-terrorists-killed-in-kashmir-1377217

[2]  Suspected Nadimarg killers gunned down in Mumbai. Indian Express 29 March 2003. http://expressindia.indianexpress.com/news/fullstory.php?newsid=2014

[3]  Let militant involved in Nadimarg massacre held. Times of India. 10 April 2003. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/LeT-militant-involved-in-Nadimarg-massacre-held/articleshow/42950029.cms?referral=PM

[4] Mastermind of Akshardham, Nadimarg killings falls to BSF. Masood Hussain. Times of India 9 August 2003. http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2003-08-09/news/27545657_1_bsf-party-akshardham-temple-nadimarg

[5]  Ex-mechanic leaves Mufti, Modi embarrassed. Times of India. New Delhi. Masood Hussain. 12 September 2003

[6]  Pakistani national was made scapegoat in Nadimarg massacre. Kmsnews.org. 23 March 2014.  www.kmsnews.org/news/2014/03/23/Pakistan-national-was-made-scapegoat-in-nadimarg-massacre.html

[7]  Nadimarg massacre: Government says probe should have concluded: police Kashmir massacre indifferent. Faisul Yaseen. Rising Kashmir. 22 March 2014. http://www.risingkashmir.com/nadimarg-massacre-govt-says-probe-should-have-concluded-police-indifferent/

[8]  Ibid

[9]  Ibid

[10]  Kashmir massacre shakes village’s sence of fraternity. Tim Sullivan. Los Angeles Times. 30 March 2003. http://articles.latimes.com/2003/mar/30/news/adgf-indiakill30

[11]  drama tha hathiyar baramadgi. Hindustan. New Delhi. 25 February 2008

[12]  Nadimarg massacre: Government says probe should have concluded: police indifferent. Faisul Yaseen. Rising Kashmir. 22 March 2014

[13]  Killing of Sikhs clouds Clinton visit to India. The Guardian. Luke Harding. 22 March 2000. www.theguardian.com/world/2000/mar/22/india.kashmir

[14]  Today in Sikh History: 20 March 2000- Chattisinghpora Sikh’s massacre. Sikhsangat.org/2014/today-in-sikh-history-20march-2000-chattisinghpora-sikh-massacre/

[15]  The massacre at Chattisinghpora. Frontline. 7-14 April 2000. www.frontline.in/static/html/fl1707/17070340.htm

[16]  Today in Sikh History: 20 March 2000- Chattisinghpora Sikh’s massacre.  Sikhsangat.org/2014/today-in-sikh-history-20march-2000-chattisinghpora-sikh-massacre/

[17]  Clinton goofs up on J&K killings. Chidanand Rajghatta.Times of India 19 May 2006. http://epapertimesofindia.com/Repository/ml.asp?Ref=VE9JTS8yMDA2LzA1LzE510FyMDEOMDE=&Mode=HTML&Locale=english-skin-custom

[18]  Ibid

[19]  Massacres and mysteries. Praveen Swami. Frontline 25 Nov-8 Dec 2000. http://www.frontline.in/static/html/fl1724/17240210.htm

[20]  For detail see chapters 10 & 15 of ‘Operation Akshardham’, authors Rajeev Yadav & Shahnawaz Alam. Pharos Media, New Delhi.

[21] Killing of Sikhs clouds Clinton visit to India. The Guardian. Luke Harding. 22 March 2000. www.theguardian.com/world/2000/mar/22/india.kashmir

[22]  Gill calls for CBI probe into Chattisinghpora Sikh’s massacre. Indian Express. 29 April 2006. htpp://sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Finding_the_truth_in_the_Chattisinghpora_Massacre

[23]  Blame J-K cops, not just us for Pathribal: Brigadier to DGMO. Ritu Sarin. Indian Express 15 May 2006.



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