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Despite killing of Rashid Bilal, struggle for Justice in Saderkoot Massacre case continues

 

SRINAGAR | APR 18 (PTK):: The 16 April 2017 extra-judicial execution of Abdul Rashid Parray (alias Rashid Billa), who used to work for the State as Ikhwan (pro-government militia), raises serious questions on the role of the State – and its various institutions – in fostering a climate of impunity in Jammu and Kashmir. Specifically, the State has consistently invested in violence and refused to allow rule of law and judicial processes to function, Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) said in a statement.

JKCCS  said that Rashid Bilal was the main accused in the 5 October 1996 massacre where he led a group of Ikhwan and killed seven civilians belonging to four families in Saderkoot-Bala, Bandipora District (North Kashmir).

“Despite registering a criminal case (FIR no.125/1996) at the Sumbal Police Station, and evidence of the involvement of specifically named Ikhwan, the police did not affect any arrests. In fact, the police in their submissions before the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir stated that the accused could not be arrested as they were then working for Mohammad Yousuf Parray alias Kuka Parray, a member of the legislative assembly and “Supreme Commander” of the Ikhwan”, JKCCS said.

“As a direct consequence of the inaction of the police, six of the nine accused were killed in separate incidents of violence between 1996 and 2004. In 2015, the families of the victim approached the High Court to intervene and direct the police to carry out proper investigations and arrest the remaining three accused (Wali Mohammad Mir, Mohammad Ayub Dar and Rashid Billa). This petition remains pending even as the police has consistently maintained that the three accused persons are “absconding” and that the police have seized the accused properties including their residential houses. The families of the victims have repeatedly informed the High Court that in fact the accused are roaming freely, issuing threats to the families fighting the case and the accused continue to enjoy access to their properties”, JKCCS said in a statement.

JKCCS  further said that while the identity of those responsible for the execution of Rashid Billa remains mysterious and uncertain, the killing of Rashid Billa in his residential house clearly demonstrates that the police have been providing false information to the court and the role of police in protecting the accused in this case would need to be investigated. If the police had ensured the arrest of Rashid Billa, his life would have been spared. The dubious role of the police raises serious questions.

“The killing of Rashid Billa is not justice and is a direct consequence of the police unwillingness to arrest him and the other accused. Further, the killing of Rashid Billa is also a further loss of evidence as Rashid Billa, following his arrest, may have been willing to provide insider testimony on the role of other accused persons and agencies, if at all any, including the army and police, in this case”, JKCCS said.

It adds that the family members of the victims will continue their struggle. As an immediate step, the police must affect the arrest of Wali Mohammad Mir and Mohammad Ayoub Dar against whom criminal proceedings must be initiated for their role in the Saderkoot massacre.