After about 70 days of their killing and burial as ‘unidentified militants,’ the bodies of three Rajouri youth killed in a staged encounter by security forces in Shopian district of southern Kashmir were handed over to their families after exhumation Saturday morning.
Three youth 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 were killed in a staged encounter by army’s 62-Rashtriya Rifles on July 18 and passed off as militants.
On Thursday, District Magistrate Rajouri forwarded the application of the families to District Magistrate Baramulla. In the application the families had demanded bodies of their kin.
The exhumation took place in Gantmulla village of Sheeri in Baramulla district amid heavy security bandobast and in presence of a magistrate.
Gantmulla village is located on the Srinagar-Uri road and houses a graveyard for unidentified militants. For several months now, police are not handing over the bodies of militants to their families as their funerals attracted large crowds. The bodies are being buried in far-off areas of Sonamarg, Handwara and Baramulla. The three Rajouri youth were
also passed off as ‘unidentified militants’ and buried in Gantmulla, Baramulla, on July 18.
“We handed over the bodies to them after exhumation,” District Magistrate Baramulla, Dr G N Yatoo, told the Greater Kashmir.
This is the first such exhumation since the exhumation of the bodies of victims of Machil Kupwara fake encounter in 2010. In the Machil fake encounter case, bodies of three youth of Nadihal Rafiabad Baramulla were exhumed from Kalaroos graveyard.
Earlier in Ganderbal fake encounter case of 2007, bodies of five innocent youth were exhumed from the central district.
SSP Baramulla, Abdul Qayoom, said the families were escorted by police.
The bodies were taken to Rajouri via the Mughal Road through Shopian where the fake encounter was staged on July 18.
A senior police officer said that exhumation was allowed only after it came to fore during investigations that those killed were innocent civilians.
Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar said, “We will try to complete the investigations in minimum possible time. We have assured and we again assure that the investigation will be fair.”
Social and political activist from Rajouri, Guftar Ahmad, who travelled with the families said that murderers of the three youth should be hanged.
“Heaviest corpses I have ever lifted on my shoulders, 16 year old Abrar Ahmed, Imtiyaz Ahmed & Ibrar Ahmed. It was a very very long morning for us. Jhelum gawah hai our three young boys were martyred on 18th July. Murderers of three boys should be hanged #ShopianFakeEncounter,” he tweeted.
The Shopian fake encounter came to fore after there were posts on social media on 10 August that the three residents of Rajouri 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 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 Mohd 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 concerned 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.