Fraud in uniform


Ask anyone in this village of more than 5000 people about Muhammad Yousuf Lone; they will pause for a moment to recollect the name. But once you mention that his son was killed in a Machil encounter, they will not only accompany you to his house but on way will relate details about Machil fake encounter. Many say the killing of the three boys of the village in Machil sector of Kupwara by the army has led to 2010 uprising in Kashmir.

Seven months have passed since then but they remember minute details about the encounter where Army paid its informers Rs 1.50 lakh to lure three persons to their camp to be killed and passed off as armed militants for rewards and promotions.

For 60-year-old Muhammad Yousuf Lone sight of journalists visiting his house is not unfamiliar one. In a minute he guides you to a modest room of his one storey house and narrates how his 20-year-old son Riyaz Ahmad Lone was taken from his home along with other two persons of the village by his neighbor, former SPO (special police officer) to get them killed at the hands of Army on the night of April 29 in Machil.

Among the listeners were neighbors and his seven children.  “I need no compensation. I want justice,” he says. The villagers nod in approval.

On the night of April 29 when Army killed three “unidentified militants” in Machil sector of Kupwara near the Line of Control, three families here were looking for their three missing sons.

Shezad Ahmad (27), Riyaz Ahmad (20), and Mohammad Shafi Lone (19) did not return to their homes after day’s work. Yousuf along with two other families started search.

On April 30, more than 70 km from their village, in Kalaroos Subaidar Satbir Singh of 4 Rajput produced a written report along with three unidentified bodies at Police Station Kalaroos saying “the three terrorists were killed in an ambush in Dushat area near LoC”.

Police sources say that Army wanted the police to report it as a joint operation which latter declined. Police registered FIR 67 under section 307, 7/27 of Arms Act.  

In the operation Colonel Pathania, Major Moriya, Major Pupindera Singh, Subedar Satbir Singh, and sepoys Chanderbaan, Nagindera and Narinder Singh had taken part.
On May 10, Muhammad Yousuf Lone submitted a written application before SHO Panzla about missing of his son, Riyaz.

Ghulam Muhammad Khan father of Shezad Ahmad also filed missing report of his son.

On May 20, Shezad’s brother Showkat Ahmad Khan submitted an application before Superintendent of Police Sopore alleging that former SPO Bashir Ahmad Lone took along Shezad and Riyaz on April 28 2010 and in the evening paid them Rs 500 each. He said next day the former SPO again took them along and since then they are missing.

Meanwhile, the disappearance of Muhammad Shafi Lone was also clubbed with the case and FIR was registered under section 346 FIR 23 of 2010.

Police picked up Bashir Ahmad Lone and after scanning his phone call records of two months came to conclusion that three boys have been lured to Machil by him and had handed them over to the Army.

However, things became clear on May 27, when a local Urdu Newspaper published report about Machil encounter, along with pictures of the slain.

The villagers in Nadihal identified the pictures as of Shezad, Riyaz and Shafi. The whole village came on the streets in protest.  

On the same day SHO Panzala along with relatives of three youth approached District Police Kupwara and sought exhumation of three bodies killed in April 29 in Machil sector.  

On May 29, villagers went to Kalaroos and exhumed bodies of the youth buried in graveyard by the local Auqaf committee.

They were identified by the parents. “They had painted their faces with henna to pass it as a beard and project them as foreigners,” said Yousuf.
They were buried later in Nadihal.

Police investigation revealed that they were lured by former SPO Bashir Ahmad Lone, his associate Abdul Hameed Lone along with a territorial Army personnel Abbas Shah to Machil sector of Kupwara promising them money and jobs.

Major Pupindera Singh, sources said, was with intelligence branch of the Army when he was posted in Baramulla. It is in Baramulla he became friends with Shah and when he was posted in Machil he sought Shah’s help to get some boys for the encounter before his transfer from the valley.

Shah called Bashir, who along with Hamid hatched the conspiracy to lure three young men to Machil.

They received Rs 50,000 each from the Army.

Yousuf and his wife knew that his son was taken by Bashir Lone. “My son told me while leaving the home in the morning that he would be back by 3pm,” says the mother.
But when he did not come in the evening, the family started the search. They made repeated visits to Bashir Lone’s house. Bashir and his brother Qayoom Lone who works with the special operations group of police threatened them. The families of other two missing persons joined Yousuf Lone. And in days whole village was with them.

The Chief Minister Omar Abdullah blamed Machil fake encounter killings for triggering the summer unrest in the valley.

“For past eight months we have not seen the accused Army personnel. We have only heard of them. We do not need any compensation. My child was lured for work and killed in fake encounter. The army officers and troops involved in the killing should be held accountable and brought to justice,” says Yousuf Lone.

An Army colonel, two majors, five soldiers and Bashir Ahmad, Abdul Hamid and Abas Shah have been named by the police in its charge sheet.

Army moved an application before CJM court Sopore asking for the case to be transferred for Court Martial proceedings.

However, the CJM rejected the Court Martial option for the accused army personnel including one Colonel and two Majors.

Later Army filed petition in the Court of Principal District and Sessions Judge Baramulla seeking revision of the order passed by the CJM Sopore.  The Court turned down the Army plea. Army has now decided to approach High Court.

Army on its part already ordered Court of Inquiry into the case.

Since killing of his son, Yousuf and his children do not move out. “I do not go outside the village even for work. I fear that I might be harmed for pursuing the case,” says Yousuf.

The situation in other two families is not different. They too do not venture outside the village. The threat of reprisal for pursuing the case has brought the victim families closer to each other.

However, marked difference is that they have nothing to say against the Army and police. “Army after the incident never visited us,” says Yousuf. They are all praise for police. And say but for police the case would have remained mystery always.

“I thank God Almighty first and then SP Sopore who helped us lot to find out bodies of our children.”

In a place where it is not expected of any law forcing agency to do normal policing, the police work to trace to locate the bodies has earned lot of good will here. “All we want is to see the accused Army personnel and officers tried for their criminal act,” says Yousuf.


About Author

A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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