23 Days After The Encounter, Rajouri Families Claim Slain Trio Were In Shopian To Earn Bread

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by Tahir Bhat

SRINAGAR: The army said it has started investigations into an encounter in which “three terrorists” were killed in a Shopian village in July. The spokesman attributed its investigations to the “social media” inputs that the “encounter” was fake.

Three Rajouri residents who are missing in Kashmir from the day three militants were killed in an encounter in Shopian

The story is that the family of three missing labourers from Rajouri went to police in their district and registered a formal missing case. They said their family members working in Kashmir were missing and were allegedly killed in a “staged encounter” on July 18.

Reports quoting relatives said that the trio identified as Imtiaz Ahmad son of Sabar Hussein (26), Ibrar Ahmed son of Bagga Khan (18) and Ibrar Ahmed (21) son of Mohammad Yousaf residents of Dhar Sakri in Kotranka, had gone to Shopian to earn their livelihood and had last called their families on July 17 informing them they are working and are all right.

They have been working in Kashmir for around two and a half months. They were mainly working around in a village in orchards.

Saleem Ahmad, cousin of one of the missing civilians Ibrar Ahmad told reporters that he identified his cousin and two other relatives through circulated photographs of slain “militants”. The “encounter” took place at Amshipora village of Shopian, the closed district to Rajouri. The two districts are connected with the Mughal Road.

“They are my relatives. The one in the centre of the photograph (of the alleged militants) is my cousin Ibrar Ahmad, while the other two are his relatives,” Saleem told TV News 18.

The families have registered a missing complaint on Sunday. Police officers confirmed that they have registered a missing case and are investigating the matter. The trio had talked to their families on July 17 evening. There was no communication with them since then as their cell phones were constantly switched off.

The families said that they were under the impression that they might be in quarantine. But when there was no communication at all, they suspected of a crisis.

One report said that the families are on way to Kashmir to seek the bodies. But it was not immediately confirmed.

After the newsbreak was around, the defence spokesman in Srinagar said they have taken note of the “inputs”. In a brief statement, the spokesman said: “We have noted social media inputs linked to the operation at Shopian on 18 Jul 2020.  The three militants killed during the operation have not been identified and the bodies were buried based on established protocols.  The army is investigating the matter.”

Police Version

The Jammu and Kashmir police on July 18 in a statement said that the encounter was executed on inputs from the 62 battalion of the Rashtriya Rifles. “On a specific input by 62RR about the presence of terrorists in village Amshipora area of District Shopian, an operation was launched by them in the said area,” the statement said.

“During the search, terrorists fired upon Army personnel and encounter started. Later on police and CRPF also joined. During the encounter, three unidentified terrorists were killed. Dead bodies of all the killed three terrorists were retrieved from the site of encounter. The identification and affiliation of the killed terrorists is being ascertained.”

Jamia Masjid Shopian

“Incriminating materials, including arms and ammunition, were recovered from the site of encounter,” it added.

All the recovered materials have been taken into case records for further investigation and to probe their complicity in other terror crimes.

The police further said: “The dead bodies of the killed terrorists have been sent to Baramulla for their last rites after conducting medico-legal formalities including a collection of their DNA. In case any family claims the killed terrorists to be their kith or kin, they can come forward for their identification and participation in last rites at Baramulla.” Concluded the statement, the police said: “Case FIR No. 42/2020 under relevant sections of law has been registered at Police Station Hirpora and investigation has been initiated into the matter.”

Reactions

The newsbreak led to a massive reaction from all sides. Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter, Iltija Mufti said the reports of the “staged encounter” in Shopian showed the armed forces were operating “with impunity”.

“Shocked to hear about reports of 3 missing labourers reportedly killed in a staged encounter at Shopian. Armed forces have a free hand to operate with impunity. Explains why bodies are allowed to decompose at unknown locations. Probes into recent encounters must be ordered,” she tweeted.

PDP Reacts

Minutes later, the party formally reacted. Terming the killing of three labourers in a staged encounter at Shopian as shocking and extremely excruciating episode, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said such repressive measures have pushed Jammu and Kashmir in a precipice of a disaster.

“The reported killing of three missing labourers from Rajouri in a staged encounter at south Kashmir’s Shopian has raised questions on all such encounters in recent months especially in view of the new decision not to identify bodies, or hand them over to families and bury them reportedly in remote, inaccessible, unidentified places,” the party spokesman said. “In order to justify its repressive, unconstitutional, inhuman and extremely violent measures upon the people of Kashmir, all government of India needs is a militancy narrative.”

Insisting that the armed forces in Kashmir have been given absolute impunity to detain, torture or kill innocent people, the spokesman said: “Such an episode has elucidated why bodies, post encounters, are allowed to decompose at unknown locations.  It is high time that impartial and high-level probes into recent encounters must be ordered.”

CPI(M) Seeks Investigation

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) termed the incident of the three labourers going missing a serious issue and said there was need for “a time-bound judicial probe”. In a statement  CPI (M) leader Tarigami said that according to media reports the trio went missing just a day before the security forces claimed it killed three unidentified militants in Shopian.

“There are unverified reports that the missing labourers have been killed in a fake encounter in Shopian on July 18. This is shocking and must be probed by a sitting High Court judge in a time-bound manner,” he said. “In the past, also unfortunate incidents of civilians being killed in fake encounters for rewards and promotions have been reported in Kashmir. The 2010 unrest was the creation of the Machil fake encounter. Those who are proved to be involved in such  heinous crimes  be brought to justice.”

Apni Party Reacts

Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) president Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari sought an impartial and time-bound probe to unearth the mystery behind the disappearance of three poor labourers of Rajouri district.

“The Lt. Governor led government in J&K is expected to order and pursue a serious, impartial and transparent investigation that leaves no stone unturned in finding out what happened to these three poor labourers who have lost contact with their families since July 17. The truth behind their missing must be unearthed as quickly as possible,” he remarked.

The JKAP president hoped that the government will assign the probe to some sitting judge who can lead the investigations while taking all the factors into consideration. Bukhari expressed solidarity with the families of these three missing labourers and assured them of all possible help in tracing the whereabouts of their loved ones.

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