Other than lawyer, 10 who died or vanished after Major ‘picked them up’

Major Avtar Singh, who shot himself dead after killing his two children and wife in California on Saturday, was the central character in a series of killings in custody, disappearances and a subsequent cover-up by the Army around Srinagar 16 years ago.

Singh had not only been chargesheeted for the killing in custody of human rights lawyer Jaleel Andrabi but also been found involved in the murder or kidnapping of 10 others, five of whom were part of a group of renegades believed to have been involved in the abduction and murder of Andrabi.

Andrabi

On January 29, 1996, two men knocked on Andrabi's door and told them their father was in hospital after the Army had set him on fire. They urged him to accompany them, but he asked them to meet him in the High Court. His family had seen three armed men waiting outside.

The visitors returned the next day. This time, Andrabi asked his wife Riffat to talk to them while he photographed them from the attic. The men saw this and raised an uproar before neighbours forced them to leave.

Andrabi had also seen a renegade working with the Army, commander Sikander Ganai, following him even inside the High Court. Worried about his safety, he spent a month in Delhi before returning to Srinagar for Eid.

On March 8, Andrabi was driving home with his wife when he was stopped and taken away by Army personnel. Riffat later approached the police, who didn't register a case but promised to check with the local Rashtriya Rifles unit.

On March 27, brother Arshad Andrabi was called by the police to identify Jaleel Andrabi's body, recovered from the Jhelum.

The arrest and disappearance had already led to a public outcry, with a case registered on March 14 under the direction of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. On March 18, the court had ordered that a Special Investigating Team be set up. The SIT report, when filed, said police had searched for counter-insurgents on the premises of the 35 RR unit HQ in Budgam. One of these was commander Ganai.

... contd.

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