Kashmir DNA cover-up claims rejected
NEW DELHI, India -- Local government officials in India's state of Jammu and Kashmir are denying claims DNA tests were falsified to cover up the deaths of five innocent civilians.
The claim, first made by The Times of India on Wednesday, said that the Jammu and Kashmir government fudged DNA samples from five alleged militants, shot dead by security forces in March 2000.
Those killed were alleged to be militants involved in the Chittisinghpura massacre of 35 Sikhs in Kashmir valley -- an attack which coincided with then U.S. president Bill Clinton's visit to India.
But residents in the area claimed the five killed by Indian forces where actually innocent bystanders, shot in a "fake encounter" with authorities.
Following an outcry, the state government exhumed the bodies. Despite their decomposition and charring, five families said the bodies were relatives that had gone missing after the Chittisinghpura bloodshed.
DNA samples from the relatives were sent in April 2000 to a laboratory in Hyderabad but the tests proved negative.
The Times said that officials apparently had tampered with the DNA samples to ensure the joint police and army operation on Kashmir could not be accused of killing innocent people.
Citing a report from the lab -- the Center for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics -- obtained by the newspaper, the Times said that some of samples supposedly from female relatives were actually male in origin. Another sample was found to contain DNA of two individuals, the report said.
"The cover-up strongly suggests the switching of DNA samples was a desperate attempt to disprove the claims of the relatives that the slain men were their relatives and had nothing to do with the Chittisinghpora massacre," the Times reported.
The paper said that there were doubts that any of the DNA sample sent to the laboratory actually "belonged to the relatives at all."
In response to the claims, the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah has denied his government tampered with the DNA samples or tests.
When questioned in state assembly on Wednesday, Abdullah said that a fresh set of blood samples from the relatives had been sent to a laboratory in Hyderabad for testing, the Times reported.
Other samples had already been sent to that laboratory and another in Kolkata, he said.
He added that the test report would be made public when it was received.
Indian pledge on Kashmir
February 25, 2002
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