Explained: The Nadimarg Kashmiri Pandits Massacre Case And Why Jammu And Kashmir High Court Is Reopening It

Twenty-four Kashmiri Pandits were killed in the Nadimarg village in Pulwama district in 2003 by terrorists wearing military fatigues.

Jammu and Kashmir High Court

The Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court this week reopened the Nadimarg Kashmiri Pandits massacre case. 

The Nadimarg case, closed in 2011, pertains to the killing of 24 Kashmiri Pandits by terrorists in Nadimarg village near Shopian in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in 2003. 

The High Court recalled its earlier order that dismissed the revision plea against the closure of the case. The case would now be heard on September 15.

Here we explain what's the 2003 Nadimarg massacre, why the case was closed and why it's now being reopened, and how it's being received. 

The 2003 Nadimarg massacre

Twenty-four Kashmiri Pandits were killed in Nadimarg village near Shopian in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on March 23 2003. 

The dead included 11 men, 11 women, and two children. The village had a total of 11 families with 52 people, according to Rediff News.

Terrorists entered the village wearing military fatigues and lined up villagers before shooting them dead. The then-Kashmir range police chief K Rajendra told Rediff at the time that terrorists disarmed the police personnel deployed to guard the Pandits.

"They first snatched the policemen's weapons and later fired indiscriminately on the Pandits," Rajendra said.

Mohan Lal Bhat, a survivor of the massacre, told India Today that terrorists attacked the village around 10:30-11 pm when he and his family had just slept. He lost his entire family in the attack — his father, mother, sister, and uncle. 

Bhat said that he heard noise from outside that seemed like windowpanes being smashed. When they went outside, they saw armed men in Army uniforms. 

"My mother urged them to take everything but leave us alone. But they said we will silence you forever. I saw a flashlight and then terrorists opened fire. I could hear only the sound of gunfire. And then a child cried. They said that he is alive, opened continuous fire on him and killed him," said Bhat.

The terrorists had dressed in military fatigues which made villagers feel that they are Indian Army personnel.

"The villagers took it for an army search operation, though search operations in this village were rare and never so late in the night. The gunmen asked the villagers to gather in the garden of a migrant Pandit's deserted house. The assassins then showered bullets on them," reported Rediff at the time.

The then-J&K Governor Girish Chandra Saxena said that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Hizbul Mujahiddeen were responsible for the massacre. 

The LeT and Hizb are both Pakistan-based terrorist organisations active in Kashmir and seek to merge Kashmir with Pakistan.

The closure and reopening of the case

A case was registered in the Zainapora Police Station and investigation was started in 2003.

The challan was filed against seven accused persons initially before the Court of Principal Sessions Judge, Pulwama, accordin to The Daily Excelsior, which added that the case was later transferred to the Court of Principal Sessions Judge, Shopian. 

The case was closed when some witnesses moved out of Kashmir Valley and the prosecution filed "moved an application before the trial court seeking permission to examine material prosecution witnesses on commission". The trial court dismissed the application. The prosecution challenged it in the High Court and the High Court too dismissed the Criminal Revision Petition of the prosecution.

The Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court has now impugned its earlier order dismissing the Criminal Revision Petition. The reasoning behind the current decision is that "a criminal matter cannot be dismissed for default and that it must be decided on merits because such matters relate to administration of criminal justice", according to Live Law. The High Court, therefore, noted that earlier the plea was dismissed for mere default and not on the merits

"The Court was persuaded to dismiss the revision petition, primarily, because nobody had appeared on behalf of the petitioner-State. The order dated 21.12.2011 does not specify the reasons as to why the revision petition lacks merit," said the High Court court, according to a copy published by Live Law.

One of many cases awaiting justice

The case of Nadimarg massacre is one of the many awaiting justice in Jammu and Kashmir. 

In recent past, some other cases have been reopened as well, such as those against Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yasin Malik, which pertain to the murder of Indian Air Force personnel and the abduction of Rubaiya Sayeed, the daughter of former Union minister and J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. 

However, some other cases are moving slowly, such as that of Satish Tikoo who was killed by terrorist Bitta Karate.

Utsav Bains, the counsel for Tikoo, had to return to Delhi earlier in May from the Srinagar Airport after no security was given to him till the premises of Srinagar sessions court where he was due to argue the case on Tuesday, said Satish's brother Ramesh Tikoo in an story by India Ahead

Mohan Lal Bhat, the lone survivor of the massacre from his family, said that the reopening of the case is a "ray of hope" for him. 

Bhat also criticised the People's Democratic Party's government in 2003. He said the government barricaded their village and didn't allow them to leave even though they did not feel secure there after the massacre and had no one to live with.

"Everything was destroyed. Nothing was left. There was no home. It was just a house. So we decided to not stay there and move out," said Bhat in the interview with the India Today shared above when asked if he wanted to leave Valley at the time.