Sultan M Hali
INDIAN Army is notorious for orchestrating fake encounters and blaming Pakistan for conducting the bogus attack. Recently, for the first time, after a Court Martial looking into the false flag operation conducted at Machil on April 29, 2010, Colonel Dinesh Pathania, Captain Opendra, Havildar Devender Kumar, Lance Naik Arun Kumar, Lance Naik Lakhmi, and Rifleman Abbas Hussain of Indian Army have been served with life sentence for planning and executing the fake encounter.
It has been brought to light that three Kashmiri civilians—Shahzad Khan (27), Shafi Lone (19) and Riyaz Lone (20) of Nadihal village in Rafiabad—were lured to an army camp at Kalaroos in Kupwara with the promise of employing them as porters on high wages, where they were subsequently killed in a staged encounter during the intervening night of 29 and 30 April 2010 at Sona Pindi in Machil sector on the Line of Control. The army had dubbed them as foreign militants who were killed in an encounter while trying to infiltrate the Line of Control. Their bodies were buried in a local graveyard near the LoC. To prove that these three young men were foreign militants, the army man painted the face of Shafi Lone—the youngest among the three—with black colour to show he had beard and then taken the picture of his face for records.
The fake encounter was exposed by Jammu and Kashmir police investigation after the families of the victims filed a missing report. Subsequently, when the bodies of these youth were exhumed from Machil graveyard where they had been buried as unidentified Pakistani terrorists, the families identified them as the three missing men from Nadihal village in Rafiabad. This fake encounter triggered massive protests across Kashmir. The government constituted a high-level inquiry commission while army too ordered a high level probe.
Bashir Ahmad Lone was a counter Insurgent and along with his policeman brother Qayoom Lone, who ruled the village through fear ever since armed struggle started waning in the valley. It was Bashir Lone who laid a death trap for Shahzad Khan, Shafi Lone and Riyaz Lone, selling them For Rs 50 thousand each to the Army. The counter insurgent Bashir Lone was assigned the job to find three men for the fake encounter by his friends—a Territorial Army jawan Abbas Hussain Shah and an army source Hameed—
who later accompanied Bashir Lone in to Kalaroos where they handed over these three men to Captain Upendera (who was functioning as Major) of 4 Rajputana Rifles of the army. They were paid Rs 1.5 lakh, two bottles of whisky and two beer bottles by the Major for their services. Shahzad and the other two men were killed in a staged encounter later at Sona Pindi on the Line of Control. The interrogation of the four persons especially the two main kingpins Territorial Army jawan Abbas Hussein Shah and army source Hameed revealed that the officers of the 4 Rajputana battalion of the army were in a hurry to stage a fake encounter on the Line of Control to secure a unit citation and cash award days before they had to shift out of the valley. The fake encounter took place.
Abbas Hussain Shah was in constant touch with “Major Upendera” ever since he took over as G-2 at 19 Div Headquarters at Baramulla. Shah said that his job was to roam around the Baramulla town and adjoining villages to sniff for any useful Information. In April, Major Upendera asked Abbas to arrange few young men and told him that they were planning to launch the recruits across the LOC into Pakistan to bring weapons and track a group of militants. Hameed and Abbas brought the unfortunate trio of Kashmiris to General Cariappa Park in Baramulla town and were informed that they would receive Rs 2,000 a day for work with the army at the LoC. The trip to Kalaroos was scheduled for 27 April. Hameed and the three young men traveled to the 4 Rajputana Rifles camp in Kalaroos. Major Upendera asked them to go back home and return on 29 April 2010 as the weather was not good. Next morning, Abbas and Hameed received their reward from Major Upendera. Hameed and Abbas were separated during the night by the Major who took the TA jawan Abbas along with him. The army took the three men – Shahzad Ahmad Khan, Mohammad Shafi Lone and Riyaz Ahmad Lone – to Sona Pindi on the Line of Control and shot them dead in a staged encounter and later dubbed them as unidentified infiltrating militants. The army had also claimed to have recovered five AK rifles. A large cache of ammunition and Pakistani currency from their possession.
The police say that the unit had received Rs 6 lakh as award for this operation. Although this staged encounter was not the first such fake encounter in Kashmir where army, paramilitary or police men killed civilians and dubbed them as foreign militants, Machil fake encounter probe exposed a complex narrative of counter-insurgency where greed and proclivity for brass medals became a common cause between a group of army officer and their local collaborators. Indian Army and government must be lauded for the judicial action in punishing the perpetrators of the false flag operation and murderers of three innocent Kashmiris but the India Army personnel deserved the death penalty for their heinous crime.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.
Sultan M Hali