Srinagar, June 12 (IANS) For most Kashmiris the news of the suicide by former major Avtar Singh, accused in the 1996 murder of rights activist Jaleel Andrabi, is nothing short of "poetic justice". Andrabi's brother says they will continue to fight for justice despite Singh's suicide.
On March 27, 1996, the body of prominent local lawyer and rights activist Jaleel Andrabi was fished out of the Jhelum river in Srinagar after he had been kidnapped on March 8, 1996 by gunmen allegedly working under the direct control of Major Avtar Singh of the Territorial Army detailed on counter-insurgency operations in the Valley.
Rifat, Andrabi's wife says she was travelling with her husband when some gunmen in a waiting army truck got down at Parraypora locality of the city and kidnapped her husband.
"They threw a blanket on his head and forced him into the waiting truck," Rifat recalled.
The family still lives under the horror of Andrabi's kidnapping and subsequent murder.
"It is something we would not be able to forget for life. The merciless killers had even gouged out the eyes of my brother. He was such a soft-spoken gentleman and those responsible for his gruesome murder could not have escaped divine justice, but it is not a murder in isolation," Arshad Andrabi, the elder brother of Jaleel, told IANS.
"We want those who ordered his murder in the chain of command to be brought to justice. We will continue to pursue the trial for justice even after Avtar Singh's suicide," said Arshad.
Some of the "government's gunmen" allegedly responsible for Jaleel's murder were also killed under mysterious circumstances within months of his death.
"One by one, some of his killers except Avtar Singh were eliminated to finish the trail to those who ordered his extra-judicial murder," said Arshad.
Jaleel Andrabi was killed when he was 36. He left behind his wife Rifat and three children.
"I have married Rifat and my brother's children are now in my care and responsibility," said Arshad.
Avtar Singh had vanished into thin air following the widespread protests and litigation that followed the lawyer's murder.
"I visited the unit to which Avtar Singh belonged which had then been moved out of the Valley. I was told by the officers of the unit that Singh had been on a short commission with the Territorial Army and he had since been released from his duties.
"The unit officers also claimed they did not have any forwarding address of Avtar Singh where I could contact him for questioning," said a police officer who was with the special investigating team (SIT) constituted to probe the murder.
When news spread about Avtar Singh shooting his wife and two children before taking his own life in California, people in Srinagar said it was "divine justice".
However, they feel sorry for the deaths of his wife and children.
"That is how Allah punishes those who kill innocent people. He might have escaped the long arm of human justice, but divine justice caught up with him finally.
"Yes, it is sad he should have killed his wife and children before taking his own life," said Suhail Ahmad, 37, a local lawyer here.