by Umar Mukhtar
SRINAGAR: On Saturday morning around 5:30 am, the bodies of three labourers from Rajouri were exhumed and handed over to their families at Gantamulla Baramulla. The exhumation came after a lot of investigations that conclusively proved that the slain trio were labourers and not militants.
Earlier, on September 18, the army claimed to have killed three Pakistani militants in an overnight gunfight in the orchards of remote Amshipora village in Shopian. After locals failed to identify any of them, the three bodies were quickly driven to north Kashmir’s Baramulla where a number of unidentified militants killed in encounters lay buried.
The same day, in a quick press conference, 12 sector Commander Brigadier Ajay Kotach told reporters that “we were also getting inputs of presence of certain identified Pakistani terrorists in that area.” He then gave media graphic details of the gun-fight. Kotach also claimed that the army recovered arms and ammunition and IED material from the slain trio.
Interestingly, the same day Jammu and Kashmir Police issued a press statement saying: the operation was launched on a specific input by the 62 Rashtriya Rifles about the presence of militants in the village. The statement also noted that police and CRPF joined the operation later.
Later in early August, three families from Rajouri who saw the photographs of the slain trio on social media claimed they were their kins who had gone to Shopian to earn their livelihoods. They said they were killed in a fake encounter in Amshipora. The authorities then ordered for enquiry and it was subsequently found that it was a fake encounter.
During the investigations, it was stated by the army that the Shopian operation contravened the dos and don’ts of the Chief of Army Staff approved by the Supreme Court.
“The inquiry has brought out certain prima facie evidence indicating that during the operation, powers vested under the AFSPA 1990 were exceeded and the Do’s and Don’ts of Chief of Army Staff as approved by the Supreme Court have been contravened. “Consequently, the competent disciplinary authority has directed to initiate disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act against those found prima-facie answerable,” the statement had said.
Soon after the army’s statement, the families of slain youth had demanded immediate exhumation of the bodies of their loved ones for proper burial at Rajouri.
Finally, after 70 days, the trio was exhumed by the family members in presence of the senior officials from police and civil departments.
Mohammad Yousuf, father of Mohammad Ibrar said that on October 2, they left Rajouri to get their loved ones exhumed. At Shopian they were joined by the SHO Shopian police station and jointly they proceeded to north Kashmir. They reached late and stayed in the Dak Bungalow Baramulla. Today early around 5 30, they went to the graveyard and exhumed the bodies. The graveyard has around 200 militants buried, some of them unidentified.
“They were lying in the marked graves-65, 66 and 67. We identified them by their photographs and numbers only,” he said. They were the latest to get buried in the sprawling graveyard. No locals came there as it was dark when the bodies were exhumed. The administration provided them with the vehicle to ferry the bodies and then drove back to bury the trio at their ancestral graveyard in their village. As this report was being filed the vehicle carrying them home was still travelling.