A Saga of Shameful Brutality Unveiled and Officially Confirmed


Machil fake encounter: 5 Armymen sentenced to life imprisonment

Rajat Pandit,TNN | Nov 14, 2014, 04.21 AM IST


New Delhi: The Army has sentenced two officers and three soldiers to life imprisonment for gunning down three unemployed Kashmiri youths and then trying to pass them off as “Pakistani militants” in a stage-managed encounter in Machil sector along the Line of Control in April 2010.


The general court martial (GCM) also held that Colonel Dinesh Pathania, Captain Upendra Singh, Havildar Devinder and Lance Naiks Lakhmi and Arun Kumar should be cashiered from service — stripped of their ranks and all pension benefits — for the fake encounter that triggered widespread outrage and violence in the Kashmir valley over four years ago.


While this relatively rare instance of such a court martial verdict will have to be “confirmed” by Northern Army Command chief Lt-General D S Hooda to complete the military legal process, state political parties and human rights outfits hailed it as “a welcome step” and “turning point” to restore faith in institutions.


The verdict comes soon after Lt-Gen Hooda last week apologised and promised a transparent probe into the accidental killing of two youngsters by soldiers manning mobile vehicle check-posts in Budgam district on November 3. The Army’s clear message was that “trigger-happy behaviour” or even mistakes in the line of duty will not be condoned, even though it has created some disquiet in its ranks.


The Machil fake encounter is of a different category altogether, a stark reminder of the earlier years in the terrorism-hit state when the performance of Army battalions was primarily decided on the number of “militant kills” they could brandish. Militancy since then has steeply declined due to relentless pressure of the Army’s counter-insurgency operations as well as other factors.


Incidentally, the Army earlier this year had “closed” another similar case against four officers and a soldier accused of killing five civilians at Pathribal in Anantnag district in 2000 due to what it said was “lack of evidence”. The CBI had charge-sheeted the five accused, which included an officer who retired as a major-general, for “cold-blooded murder” in the case.

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