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Panchalthan case an embarrassment for Farooq

8 Mar 2002

Panchalthan case an embarrassment for Farooq

JYOTIRMAYA SHARMA & SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN

TIMES NEWS NETWORK 
[ WEDNESDAY, MARCH 06, 2002  2:11:50 AM ]
EW DELHI/HYDERABAD: On March 20, 2000, terrorists entered the remote Kashmir village of Chittisinghpora and gunned down 35 Sikhs. US president Bill Clinton was visiting India and the massacre brought the Kashmir issue into sharp international focus.

India accused Pakistan of orchestrating the killing, and Pakistan blamed India. Five days later, on March 25, the Kashmir government announced that five Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists responsible for the massacre had been surrounded and killed in a ferocious encounter in Panchalthan village with the states Special Operations Group SOG) and the Armys Rashtriya Rifles.

Union Home Minister L K Advani, during his visit to Anantnag, congratulated the security forces for eliminating the butchers responsible for the Chittisinghpora massacre.

One day before this encounter supposedly took place, five men from in and around Anantnag had gone missing. Zahoor Dalal, a young cloth merchant, was last seen by neighbours being bundled into a van.

According to district officials, the van had earlier been seized by the police. An officer surreptitiously commandeered it for the abduction, but unknown to him, a vigilant constable noted his action in the station roznamcha.

The same evening, Bashir Ahmad and Mohammad Malik of Halan village — in Anantnag collecting payment for sheepskins they had sold — also went missing. In Brari Angan village, some 25 km from town, uniformed men dragged away two people, both named Juma Khan. They, too, would never be seen again.

As the days went by and the five men never reappeared, their relatives began suspecting foul play. Word spread that the five alleged terrorists killed at Panchalthan were none other than the civilians who had gone missing. An agitation began which culminated in a terrible incident on April 3, when the security forces opened fire on unarmed protestors at a village near Anantnag called Brakpora, killing eight people.

In order to placate public sentiment, Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah finally agreed to exhume the bodies from Panchalthan. This was done on April 6. Despite having been burned beyond recognition, the five families positively identified the bodies on the basis of clothes and other markings. The authorities let them take away the bodies but said any payment of compensation and registration of criminal charges against the policemen and soldiers who had taken part in the encounter would have to wait until DNA testing proved conclusively that the five were whom the relatives claimed they were.

Obviously, the J&K government was not prepared to risk genuine DNA testing for fear that the villagers allegations might, in fact, turn out to be completely true. By fudging the DNA samples, as the report of the Hyderabad-based Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics makes amply clear, the state authorities have only ensured that the needle of suspicion will continue to point firmly in their direction.
Kolkata lab says DNA samples were fudged

DHIMAN CHATTOPADHYAY

TIMES NEWS NETWORK 
[ FRIDAY, MARCH 08, 2002  2:03:03 AM ]
OLKATA: As early as June 2000, Kolkata's Central Forensic Science Laboratory had told the Jammu and Kashmir government that the DNA samples it received for testing, had "serious discrepancies".

The CFSL had just received the DNA samples of five suspected militants shot dead in an encounter in March, and those of their living relatives.

On Thursday, speaking to The Times of India, CFSL director V K Kashyap said: "We had dashed off a letter to the J&K government immediately after we found that the samples had certain serious discrepancies in both labelling and sampling."

Unless the discrepancies were explained by the J&K authorities, it would be improper for them to submit the final report.

He said the laboratory had sent two reminders. Till date not a single reply had been received. "We finished our investigations in December 2000. The samples were obviously tampered with."

Subsequent tests over the next six months found many more gross irregularities.

"Can you imagine our surprise when we opened a sample labelled as the 'sternum' of a victim, only to find that it was a soft tissue," he said.

"Then, blood samples were said to belong to the mother and daughter of a victim. But not only were the samples taken from a man, but both belonged to the same man," said a senior CFSL official.

The J&K government sent the samples after widespread protests in Anantanag that those killed in the March encounter were not militants but innocent civilians.

In April 2000, blood DNA samples were sent to the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad. Soon after, the Kolkata centre received a set, Kashyap confirmed on Thursday.

On Wednesday, The Times of India quoted a report submitted by the Centre in Hyderabad which said the blood samples had been "tampered with".

On the same day, speaking in the state assembly, J&K chief minister Farooq Abdullah said "fresh samples" had been sent to the Centre in Kolkata and report was still awaited.

CFSL records show that they indeed did receive samples only once from the Sher-e-Kashmir Medical College in June 2000.

But contrary to Abdullah's claims, no "fresh samples" thereafter had been sent.

Kashyap also brushed aside remarks that the CFSL was "incapable and ill-equipped" to carry out DNA tests of this nature and that as a government organisation, they could be forced to submit doctored reports.

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia was formed in 1993 to combat rising religious intolerance in South Asia and to campaign for peace and justice in the region. We are committed to working towards a just, non-violent resolution of the crisis we are currently living through. If you are interested in joining us in this work, please call 617-983-3934 or e-mail info@alliancesouthasia.org

28 Jul 2007

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