Monday, Oct 02, 2023

Nadimarg Pandits Massacre: Jammu & Kashmir High Court Orders Resumption Of Trial

Nadimarg Pandits Massacre: Jammu & Kashmir High Court Orders Resumption Of Trial

Twenty-four Kashmiri Pandits were killed in the Nadimarg village in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir in 2003 by terrorists.

Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court
Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court File photo

The Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court has directed the trial in the Nadimarg Kashmiri Pandits massacre case to restart at the earliest. 

In 2003, terrorists wearing military fatigues killed 24 Kashmiri Pandits in Nadimarg village in J&K's Pulwama district. The trial was closed in 2011.

The High Court has now directed the trial court to examine witnesses through video-conferencing and also "ensure expeditious proceedings so as to conclude the matter at the earliest", according to legal news website LawBeat.

It further indicted the trial court and noted that it had not endeavored to examine all the witnesses on commission so as to unveil the truth in "a case of heinous nature like the one on hand".

What is Nadimarg case?

The current order in the Nadimarg case stems from an earlier order in June that reopened the case after 11 years of its closure.

In June, the High Court recalled its earlier order that dismissed the revision plea against the closure of the case. 

On March 23, 2003, 11 men, 11 women, and two children were killed by terrorists in Nadimarg village near Shopian in Pulwama district, according to Rediff News. The report added that 52 others were injured.

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.

We will silence you forever: Terrorists

Mohan Lal Bhat, a survivor of the Nadimarg massacre, told India Today that terrorists told his mother that they will silence her forever.

Bhat said 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 Indian 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.

Terrorists posed as Army soldiers

The terrorists wore fatigues to pose as 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 in the Nadimarg massacre.

The challan was filed against seven accused persons initially before the Court of Principal Sessions Judge, Pulwama, according 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 "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.


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