Let Justice Prevail

6 mins read
Disappearance

Mir Mudasir

It has now been four months, three families in the remote villages of Rajouri are waiting for the bodies of their kin who were picked up by the army from a village in Shopian then allegedly killed in a fake encounter in the orchards of Amshipora village.

From the very beginning the ‘encounter’ was under scanner as the three killed persons Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohd Ibrar -all from Rajouri doesn’t look like militants from their attire and appearance. The army however issued a statement terming them militants. The encounter took place on July 17 and exactly after a month, three families in Rajouri lodged a missing complaint at a local police station saying that their children had gone to Shopian village to work as farm labourers and since then had no contact with them. According to family members the phones which they were carrying went silent and it’s when the families started looking for their kin and lodged a missing report after they saw some photographs which resembled to their missing relatives. In August, Police collected the DNA samples from close relatives of three young men and the samples were sent for forensic examination. Meanwhile, the families and locals were certain that three young men were killed in fake encounter by army and buried at an undisclosed place. Among the three youth one was married and had three year old son who keeps on searching his father without knowing the fact that he was allegedly killed in a staged encounter.

On Friday, J&K police admitted that the DNA samples of the three youths gunned down in an encounter in July have matched with their family members in Rajouri and that further investigations are underway. The revelation from the police was sufficient to convey that three youths were killed had apparently no links with militancy.

The army had admitted last week that powers vested under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) were violated in the July killing of three people, who they thought were terrorists.

“The DNA samples of families have been received and they have matched with those killed in the Amshipora encounter. The remaining formalities will be completed and further action will be taken,” Vijay Kumar, Inspector General of Police, had told reporters in Srinagar at Police Control Room. Kumar said that further investigations have been taken up. On September 28, the police Chief Dilbagh Singh reiterated that the final reports will be submitted shortly both by Amry and police investigating incident separately. He said that with the investigations into the killing of three young men are being monitored by SP Shopian, the outcome of army inquiry will be produced shortly.

Earlier In a statement, the army had said that the inquiry ordered by authorities into the operation at Amshipora in Shopian on July 18 has concluded.

“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,” the spokesman 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.

The families of the three had written to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, seeking his intervention after the DNA reports were delayed as many thought that reports would never be made public.

“Our children left for Shopian on July 16, in search of work where one of our relatives, Imtiyaz Ahmed, works in the house of the ‘Lambardar’. After a couple of days, we lost contact with the children. So, we decided to lodge a missing complaint,” the letter from the families said, adding that on August 10, they came to know, via social media, that all three men were killed in an encounter.

“We identified them from pictures of the bodies. On August 13, a Shopian police team collected DNA samples from us. We were assured that the DNA report would be out within 10 days. To date, we have not been informed about the reports,” the plea to Sinha said.

“Our children had no connection with militancy. For this, we are demanding an inquiry. They were killed in cold blood, and were merely students and labourers. We are demanding an impartial and fair inquiry into the killings as well as the DNA reports, so that things can be made public,” read the letter. The families added in the letter that several of its members are still serving in the army.

NC vice president and former J&K chief minister, Omar Abdullah while raising the questions over the encounters in Kashmir said that who had planted arms and ammunition on the bodies of youth. He was referring to the statement of army that released after the killing of three youths.

“According to this official version, “incriminating materials, including arms and ammunition, were recovered from the site of an encounter.”

“So who planted this “incriminating material”?” tweeted Omar Abdullah. He further said these young men were buried somewhere in North Kashmir.

“It is imperative that the bodies be exhumed & handed over to the families immediately so that a proper burial can take place near their homes in Rojouri district.”

Apni Party President Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari said the police’s forensic investigations confirming the identity of three slain labourers from Rajouri district who were killed in Amshipora-Shopian encounter warrants the certainty of punishment under law that can act as an effective deterrent against such human rights violations.

Reacting to the police confirmation on results of DNA samples of parents of three slain youth that have matched with those killed in Shopian encounter, Bukhari appreciated the role of police in conducting a fair investigation in the matter, so far.

“Since the police has now confirmed that those killed in Shopian encounter were the three missing labourers from Rajouri district, the government of India must disburse adequate solatium in addition to the government jobs to the victim families in light of the Honb’le Supreme Court rulings and ensure that a stern action is taken against the culprits,” Bukhari observed.

He said the Army’s probe findings in the matter in which it admitted violations of Standard Operating Procedures, Army Conduct Rules and exceeding AFSPA guidelines, followed by DNA revelations made by the police today would certainly narrow down the growing trust deficit and alienation among people.

“Considering these incidents as prima facie extra-judicial killings, such cases must be probed without any bias. The role of local collaborators who provide concocted information to security forces in lieu of some remuneration should also be exposed and the guilty should be taken to task. And the government must ensure that an adequate monetary relief to the victim families should not be used to elide the Army’s court of inquiry from the question of blame or to avoid charges of criminal culpability on the part of security forces,” Apni Party president demanded.

He said the government of India needs to immediately curb such criminal tendencies through its concerted efforts on multiple fronts including legal as well as institutional levels. “It is not about the monetary relief but an assurance of accountability and punishment to the guilty is what can provide a sigh of relief to the victim families and ensure that justice is done,” Bukhari remarked.

Apni Party president said that the firm stand taken by the Army and now by the police in this case will go a long way in restoring lost confidence among the people. He demanded that the government must also address the demand of the victim families and hand over the bodies for their proper funeral.

Bukhari also hoped for a time bound completion of the magisterial probe ordered in Sopore youth’s killing in a more fair and transparent manner.  “These fair investigations are essential for improving the accountability mechanisms within the institutions mandated for security for the people.  The government of India needs to ensure that such gross human rights violations do not become precedence. There should be no tolerance for human rights violations if the government of India is sincere in its commitment to bring peace and tranquility in J&K,” Bukhari said.

Now everybody is closely watching what action will be taken against the officials who allegedly have stage managed this encounter and killed three innocent people who were also related to each other and had come from their villages to just earn their livelihood. Though this is not the first encounter which has come under scanner, it has yet again brought to fore the past gory memories attached to fake encounters like Pathribal and Machil.

Now, the government should set an example to punish the guilty otherwise nobody will have faith on the law of land. And without any delay the bodies of three young men should be exhumed and handed over to their parents for burial.

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