Remembering the Killings of Sikhs in Chattisinghpora 15 Years Ago

On March 20, 2000, on the eve of a visit by then U.S. President Bill Clinton to India, armed men in Indian army uniforms entered the village of Chattisinghpora in Anantnag district at night.  The villagers, most of them Sikhs, were told that it was a routine investigation and identity check. Male residents were asked to come out of their homes with their identification cards. Once they were lined up outside, however, the gunmen opened fire, killing thirty-six and injuring several others. It was the first time in more than a decade of violence in Jammu and Kashmir that the Sikh community had come under attack.

The killings shocked many Kashmiris. India immediately blamed Pakistan and the Islamist groups based there. Others claimed that the killings were in fact carried out by Indian troops.  Generally, Kashmiris were willing to wait for a credible inquiry.

In August 2000, the government said that it had evidence that the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba was behind the killings. In response to a notice from the National Human Rights Commission, the director general of police of Jammu and Kashmir, Gurbachan Jagat, said a case had been registered and investigations were in progress. The commission said that according to information received from the government of India:

Of the twenty accused persons identified in connection with the killing of 35 Sikhs, 6 were killed in subsequent encounters; 2 were further detained under the Public Safety Act and 12 were absconding. A charge sheet has been filed in the case on 13 November 2000. The report stated three Pakistani nationals belonging to Lashkar-e-Toiba had confessed their involvement in the killings.

This was a partial representation of the facts. After the murders of the Sikhs, the government ordered an inquiry and combing operation to locate those responsible. On March 25, 2000, the security forces claimed that five militants responsible for the massacre had been killed in an armed encounter at Pathirabal. The encounter was later found to have been fabricated; the dead men were ordinary villagers. On April 3, 2000, security forces opened fire on a demonstration in Brakpora to protest the killing of the five villagers, this time killing eight civilians.



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