Pathribal denotes one of the saddest chapters in the history of Kashmir turmoil besotted with political quagmires. On March 25, 2000 seven young men were gunned down by the army personnel and labeled as dreaded foreign terrorists responsible for killings of 36 Sikhs during the same year at Chittisingpura. However, on investigations and exhumation of graves it was found that all those killed were innocent local civilians and they had been the victims of a ‘fake’ encounter. These young men were simply at the wrong place at a wrong time which snapped the life out of them for rewards and awards. Their families were left in lurch with the pain of facing the dreaded and painful question as to “Why them?”
Their only way to redeem the pain to some extent was getting the guilty to pay for the misery unleashed by them. The case was handled by the CBI which filed its charge sheet in 2007 against 5 army men including the then brigadier who ironically rose onto become the Major General.
However, army is defiant against prosecution claiming their immunity under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which gives them a legal cover. They claim that they can’t be put under the legal scanner without the prior permission from the centre as they were operating in abnormal and peculiar environment. On being asked by the court whether they were at least willing to initiate court martial against the accused the party again sought time and asked for the permission from the due quarters. The court rapped them for this stance and also asked them to produce one case where they had sought the permission from the central government for the court-martial proceedings. The bench also took them to task for taking the court for a ride. Meanwhile, the court also sought responses from the Home and Defence ministries for the same. The court also regretted the time lapse of almost a decade in just bringing the accused to a trial.
This misnomer of “We can’t be prosecuted at all even if it is a case of cold-blooded murders for we are operating in an abnormal circumstance” can’t be given precedence in a nation which resides in a paradigm of hope and hope. The stance taken by the bench speaks of a nation which has its date with the justice firmly in place. This allows the civilians to allow the hope to prosper and grow-a hope that justice has a chance. Though it cannot undo the misdeed at least it can stem the free-flow of such misdeeds from happening again!