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Farooq stirs massacre ghost

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By MUZAFFAR RAINA
  • Published 23.11.09
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Srinagar, Nov. 22: Union minister Farooq Abdullah today created a flutter by claiming that “some powers” had prevented him from probing the massacre of 35 Sikhs at Chattisinghpora in 2000 on the eve of Bill Clinton’s visit to India.

Farooq, who was the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir at the time of the massacre, also asked for a fresh investigation by a retired Supreme Court judge.

Unidentified gunmen, dressed in army uniforms, swooped on Chattisinghpora village on March 20, 2000, dragged 35 Sikhs out of their homes and shot them on the eve of then US President Bill Clinton’s visit to the country.

Farooq, now the new and renewable energy minister, today did not disclose who these powers were but he appeared to be questioning the official line. “I wanted the same judge to investigate the Chattisinghpora massacre too but some powers did not want it,” he said, referring to an investigation of the killing of five persons at Pathribal, days after the massacre.

Security forces had claimed the five were “foreign terrorists” responsible for the massacre but investigations later showed they were all innocent civilians, killed in a fake encounter by the army. Their bodies had been charred beyond recognition.

Protests rocked Kashmir after the five civilians were reported missing from villages adjoining Chattisinghpora. Eight more protesters lost their lives at Brakpora in police firing, prompting Farooq’s government to order a probe into the Pathribal and Brakpora killings.

The Centre blamed militants for the massacre but separatists and some civil society groups in Kashmir put the blame on security forces, arguing that it was a ploy to present “the freedom struggle in bad light” before Clinton’s visit.

Farooq’s party, the National Conference, was then part of the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Today, he asked Sikhs to mount pressure on the Centre to get the case reinvestigated by a retired Supreme Court judge, arguing their pleas may be heard because Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself is a Sikh.

A judicial commission later indicted the Special Operations Group of police and the CRPF in the Brakpora killings.

“Five people were passed off as militants and held responsible for the killing of Sikhs. They were picked up from shops and then killed. Thanks to Allah that truth prevailed and they were proven innocent. They were not involved in the massacre and some other people were behind it,” Farooq said at an event organised by the Khalsa Democratic Front, a Sikh organisation.

“The truth should come out.... There are doubts in the hearts of Sikhs, whether they live in India or abroad. They will remain till justice is done. I fear if justice is not done the lava of anger among the Sikhs will sweep all of us away.”