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'Innocent civilians killed' in Kashmir cover-up

Protesters mourn the deaths of 36 Sikhs killed by gunmen in Chittisinghpura in March 2000
Protesters mourn the deaths of 36 Sikhs killed by gunmen in Chittisinghpura in March 2000  

From Mukhtar Ahmad

SRINAGAR, Kashmir (CNN) -- The Indian government in the state of Jammu and Kashmir has admitted that five people killed by security forces more than two years ago are innocent civilians, and not 'foreign terrorists' as suspected.

The state government said reports from DNA testing laboratories in Kolkata and Hyderabad established that all five were from local families.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah presented the test findings in the state legislature on Tuesday and said his government has asked New Delhi for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

On March 21, 2000, the Indian army and Jammu and Kashmir police had blamed the men for a massacre of 36 Sikhs in the Kashmiri village of Chittisinghpura three days earlier.

The five alleged militants were shot by Indian authorities and their bodies charred beyond recognition.

Abdullah described the killing of the five and its aftermath as a grave incident, where the "perpetrators tried to tamper with samples and destroy the incriminating evidence."

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After the killing, public protests broke out. Eight protesters were killed in one such demonstration near a camp of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force.

The state administration then ordered the five bodies exhumed and their DNA examined. Relatives recognized the bodies as they were exhumed, and gave samples of their own DNA for cross-matching.

But experts at the forensic science department of the Government Medical College in Srinagar, which was to send samples to the testing labs, were later alleged to have fudged the samples.

The state government suspended the entire team of forensic experts from the medical college.

Later, other samples were collected by experts from the Kolkata and Hyderabad labs at the request of the state government.

The mother of one of the victims said, "Now the world knows we were not lying. The vindication of our stand has proven the guilt of the officials involved, beyond any shade of doubt. Now the guilty who are already identified must be prosecuted."

When contacted, the Indian Ministry of Defence said it had no immediate comment on the report, but would study its findings and the conclusions from the investigations.


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