Shopian fake encounter | Bodies of victims to be handed over to families

A day after two persons were arrested in the case, the authorities have decided to exhume the bodies of three Rajouri youth killed in a fake encounter by security forces in Shopian district of southern Kashmir in July.

“As the DNA samples of three bodies matched with their family members, therefore these bodies will be exhumed and handed over to their families after due process of law,” Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar told the Greater Kashmir.

The fake encounter was staged in Ashimpora village of Shopian on 18 July. The Army had claimed that it killed three militants in an encounter and claimed recovery of arms and ammunition, besides incriminating material.

The development came a day after two persons were arrested in connection with the fake encounter.

Reliable sources in police said that so far their investigations have found no militancy connection of the three victims and that it has been confirmed that they were shot dead in a staged gunfight and passed off as militants.

“We investigated two aspects. One is matching the DNA,” a top level police officer told the Greater Kashmir, adding that the other aspect was whether these youths, who had come to work in Shopian, had any links with militants. “So far we did not find any such link and investigations continue.”

Besides, the top officer said, the families of three youth deposed before the Deputy General Officer Victor Force who is carrying out Army Court of Inquiry. “They also met GOC Victor Force Rashim Bali who assured them fair investigations,” he said. “On Tuesday the families in Rajouri were assured by SSP and DIG that bodies will be handed over to them,” he added.

This will be the first such case after the Machil fake encounter of 2010 when authorities allowed exhumation of the bodies of the victims. Earlier in 2006, the authorities had allowed exhumation in the infamous Ganderbal fake encounter case.

Since 10 August evening, there were posts on social media that the three residents of Rajouri – 26 year old Ibrar Ahmed son of Mohammad Yousuf resident of Tarkassi, 21 year old Mohammad Imtiyaz son of Sabar Hussain resident of Kathuni Mohalla of Dharsakri and 18 year old Mohammad Abrar son of Bagha Khan resident of Kathuni Mohalla of Dhar Sakri – who had come to Shopian for labour work have been killed in a fake encounter on 18 July by Army’s 62 Rashtriya Rifles.

The Army had ordered an inquiry into the incident on 11 August. After the initial inquiry Army admitted that powers vested under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)?were ‘exceeded’ in the 18 July fake encounter in which three laborers were killed.

“The inquiry has brought out prima facie evidence indicating that during the operation, powers vested under the AFSPA 1990 were exceeded and the dos and don’ts of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) as approved by the Hon’ble Supreme Court have been contravened. Consequently, the competent disciplinary authority has directed initiation of disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act against those found prima-facie answerable,” Army had said, adding that the evidence collected showed that the three unidentified men killed in Amshipora are actually Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Muhammad Ibrar – all from Rajouri.

Kin of the deceased, residents of Peeri Tehsil in Rajouri, had said that the boys left home on July 16 in search of work. They reached Shopian district where they rented a room.

Earlier, the families of the three wrote to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, seeking his intervention after the DNA reports were delayed.

DNA samples from the families were sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) Srinagar, and the FSL at Chandigarh.

Apart from the families, the investigation has come under severe criticism from various quarters especially the defenders of the Human Rights for its snail’s pace who have alleged that the investigation process is slow because authorities are allegedly trying to botch it up to save those who are involved in the killing of the youths.

After the DNA results confirmed that those passed off as militants were laborers, the families of the victims have sought capital punishment to the guilty soldiers.