A foreign militant called Mateen Chacha was killed in the encounter along with two civilians and two army personnel, according to the First Information Report (FIR).
Two others, including Lt Gen Bikram Singh, then a Brigadier heading the 5-sector Rashtriya Rifles headquartered at Janglat Mandi (Anantnag), and a civilian, Ajaz Ahmad Bhat, were injured.
Zaituna, the mother of the alleged militant killed in the firing, however, has accused the general of staging a fake encounter. She filed a writ petition in the Jammu & Kashmir high court, seeking that the case be reinvestigated by a special investigation team. Many innocent Kashmiris were gunned down by the army and government-sponsored gunmen called Ikhwanis, and were later passed off as foreign militants, Zaituna alleged.
According to seniority, General Bikram Singh is set to become the next army chief on May 31, 2012. An adverse order or even an observation by the court is bound to result in a far greater embarrassment for the army and defence ministry than the ongoing age row involving present chief General VK Singh. Therefore, the army and the defence ministry are pulling strings from New Delhi and Srinagar to avoid embarrassment to the future chief.
The police in Jammu have absolved General Bikram Singh of the charges, stating that the encounter between the army and militants was genuine.
However, the petition is proving to be a hindrance to the career prospects of the general who shot to prominence as the army’s face during the Kargil war.
In view of the petition, the court in its order on October 13, 2011, issued notices to the state government and defence ministry and asked them to file objections. It has also asked for all records pertaining to case FIR 72/2001 from the district sessions court, Islamabad, for perusal. Both parties have sought many adjournments since then.
Police chief Kuldeep Khuda said his force has nothing against General Bikram Singh as far as the FIR and investigations are concerned. Army officials in South Block, which houses the defence ministry, refused to comment. “We have nothing to say,” an army official said.
Petitioners Zaituna and her daughter Jana submitted to the court that the killed ‘foreign militant’ Mateen Chacha of Pakistan’s North Western Frontier Province was actually Abdullah Bhat, son of Qadir Bhat of Machil Kupwara. The petitioners wanted the remains of Bhat to be exhumed for a DNA test. “The DNA profile should be matched with those of his family members. The photographs of the victim taken by the police must also be shown to the family for identifying the victim,” the petitioner said.
Last November, NGO Yes-Kashmir approached prime minister Manmohan Singh, defence minister AK Antony and the state authorities and demanded that the case be revisited.