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DNA tests fudged to cover up killings in Kashmir
By Danish A Khan

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah on 16 July admitted that the five people killed by the security forces in March 2000 were innocent and that their DNA samples were fudged to conceal the truth. Speaking in Kashmir legislative assembly Farooq Abdullah further demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the issue which has rocked Kashmir ever since.

"I will ask the CBI to find the officials who were involved in the fudging of the DNA and those who were involved in the massacre and bring them to book," Abdullah said while making an official statement at the assembly in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir.

After the outcry that the persons killed were innocents, state government officials had collected DNA samples from the five persons who were gunned down by the police. The police had claimed that those killed were terrorists. The massacre goes to March 20, 2000 when 37 Sikhs were killed in Chattisinghpora on the eve of a visit to India by then US president Bill Clinton. It is still not clear who committed the massacre. There are claims and counter claims about militants and security forces' involvement in the massacre.

Four days later, police said they had killed five men involved in the Chattisinghpora killings. It identified those killed as "foreign militants" belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) who were out to unleash terror in India. The organisation was banned by Pakistan in January 2002.

After an outcry DNA samples were taken from the relatives of the five alleged terrorists killed in a joint police-Army operation in March 2000 to ensure it could not be accused of having murdered innocent civilians in a fake encounter. Killings of both militants and ordinary people in fake encounters by the security forces is a common complaint in Kashmir. Local residents had insisted that the men were innocent civilians who went missing after being arrested by the Army. After much hue and cry was raised over the issue at home and abroad the government agreed to exhume the bodies.

The bodies of all the five people were exhumed and DNA samples were taken in May 2000, and the procedure was repeated on April 2 this year after allegations that the evidence had been tampered with.

Media reports, which played an effective role in highlighting the issue, had then alleged that with a considered motive to throw the investigations off track the earlier samples had been fudged. 

Now that the truth is out, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah has issued orders with immediate effect to place under suspension all the officials involved in faking the DNA samples. He declared today that in case the officials are found guilty, they would be sacked and prosecuted. 

One man commission of enquiry, headed by Justice GA Kuchay, a retired High Court judge, has also been appointed to probe the matter. The report is expected in two months.

Meanwhile, Inspector General of Police Jammu, PL Gupta, has been entrusted the job of getting fresh DNA tests conducted. 

It may be recalled that on the first day of the then US President Bill Clinton's Indian visit Sikh villagers in Chattisinghpora in Kashmir were massacred. New Delhi blamed the massacre on Pakistani terrorists and quickly killed five persons and claimed they were the killers of the Sikhs and belonged to LeT terrorist organisation. 

Villagers of the area, however, disagreed. As a result bodies of the slain "terrorists'' were exhumed from Panchalthan, near Anantnag, after widespread protests. Five families in the Anantnag area identified the charred, decomposed bodies as those of their relatives who had gone missing after the Chattisinghpora incident. The government at the time said no action would be taken against the security personnel until DNA testing conclusively proved the identity of the five bodies.

DNA samples were promptly collected from the bodies and from eight relatives and sent in April 2000 to the Hyderabad-based Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, an autonomous institute of the Indian Government. 

To ensure the tests would prove negative, officials tampered with the relatives’ DNA samples. However, they did not realise that the DNA test would also be able to expose their attempts at a cover-up.

The results of the DNA tests in case No. 783-78/ADM of Anantnag police station, under CDFD case No. 685 and DNA typing report LS/DNA-FP/2001-645, were forwarded to the senior superintendent of police, Anantnag, on February 26, 2001.

The bodies which were exhumed were those of Zahoor Ahmad Dalal of Moominabad, Bashir Ahmad of Halan, Muhammad Yousuf Malik of Halan, Juma Khan s/o Faqir Khan of Brari Angan and Juma Khan s/o Amir Ullah Khan of Brari Angan.

DNA samples purported to have been collected from the relatives did not match with the DNA isolated from the exhumed bodies. In three cases, the samples of women relatives were found to have come from men, something that is said to have come as a shock to the forensic scientists. 

The samples from females Raja Bano, Nayeema Ara and Rafiqa in fact came from males. It says the sources of exhibits D (Raja Bano’s sample), E (Nayeema Ara's sample) and S (Rafiqa's sample) are male in origin! "Their identity cards show they are females, (but) DNA results show that they are from human males," the reports pointed out. 

The cover-up sufficiently meant that the DNA samples were switched in a desperate attempt to disprove the claims of the relatives that the slain men were their relatives and had nothing to do with the Chattisinghpora massacre. 

Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah had said that as soon as the reports were received they would be tabled in the legislative assembly.

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