Srinagar: Three missing youth from Rajouri district of Jammu region have allegedly been killed by army in a ‘staged encounter’ in south Kashmir’s Shopian district last month, the families said on Monday.
Abrar Ahmed Khan and Abrar Yousuf Chouhan, both residents of Dhar Sakri village of Qotranka in Rajouri, left for valley on July 16 to earn their livelihood after their relative Imtiyaz Hussain assured them work as labourers in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, where he had been working for over a month, Chouhan’s father Mohammad Yousuf told Kashmir Observer.
A day later, Yousuf said the two boys called up their families and informed them they have reached Shopian safely and have also hired a room for accommodation.
“That was the last time we heard from them. For next 22 days, their mobile phones were switched off,” Yousuf said.
The families, he said suspected that the authorities might have taken the boys for quarantine, as per the standard operating procedure (SOPs).
However, as the mobile phones remained continuously switched off and the boys remain incommunicado, the families, Yousuf said filed a missing complaint on August 9.
“I was on my way to home from Qotranka when I received a call. He started asking questions about the boys. Minutes later, he sent some pictures on my Whatsapp,” Yousuf said.
“To my shock, the pictures were of my son and two other relatives. I am devastated,” he added.
Yousuf further said that the youth, including his son have been killed in a fake gunfight and passed off as militants by the army.
“They (state forces) are not killing militants but created them. My innocent children have been killed in cold-blood. Had they been militants, I would have no regrets,” he said.
Choudhary Mohammad Bashir, another relative of a slain youth alleged that army had tried to disfigure the faces of the youth so that they could never be identified.
“All the three were killed in broad day light. Army had tried to disfigure their faces so that no one would ever know the truth of this stage managed encounter,” he said.
Pertinently, in a statement issued here on July 18, a police spokesperson had claimed that three militants were killed by a joint team of army, police and CRPF in village Amshipora area of district Shopian. The police spokesperson had also claimed recovery of incriminating materials, including arms and ammunition from the site of encounter.
The handout had further said that the operation was launched by army’s 62 RR on a specific input about presence of militants in the village
“During search terrorists fired upon Army personnel and encounter started. Later on police and CRPF also joined. During the encounter three unidentified terrorists were killed. Dead bodies of all the killed three terrorists were retrieved from the site of encounter. The identification and affiliation of the killed terrorists is being ascertained.
The police spokesperson had said that the bodies of terrorists were sent to Baramulla for their last rites after conducting medico-legal formalities including collection of their DNA.
When contacted, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Shopian, Amrit Pal Singh told Kashmir Observer on Monday that the action will be taken as per law if the families approach the police.
“The family has not approached police so far. If they approach us, we will do whatever is required as per the law,” Singh said.
Meanwhile, Srinagar-based Defence spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia issued a brief statement saying the army has noted social media inputs linked to the operations at Shopian on July 18, 2020.
“The three terrorists killed during the operation have not been identified and the bodies were buried based on established protocols. The army is investigating the matter,” the Defence spokesperson said.
Missing Report Filed With Police In Rajouri
Family members of three missing labourers have meanwhile filed a written report with police. The trio, aged 18, 21 26 years respectively, had last called their families on July 17 informing them they have reached Shopian and got a room on rent, according to their relative.
“They last called on July 17 when they informed the families that they have reached Shopian where they have taken a room on rent,” Lal Hussian, a relative of the missing persons said. Asked reason for filing the missing report now, he said, “We thought there are connectivity problems in Kashmir for one or the other reasons and we were waiting that they will call soon. However, we thought it was enough and as such filed the missing report.” He urged authorities to take all measures to trace out the trio.
Residents of Dhar Sakri in Kotranka, the trio include Imtiaz Ahmad son of Sabar Hussein(26), Ibrar Ahmed son of Bagga Khan (18) and Ibrar Ahmed (21) son of Mohammad Yousaf.
According to Station House Officer (SHO) Kotranka Mustaj Ahmed a written report has been received in this regard.
PDP, CPI (M), JKAP Seek Probe
Several mainstream parties on Monday demanded a probe impartial and time bound probe to unearth the mystery behind the disappearance of three poor labourers of Rajouri district and their alleged killing in a fake encounter in south Kashmir’s Shopian last month.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) termed the reports of three missing labourers killed in a “staged encounter” at Shopian as shocking and extremely excruciating episode and has said that such repressive measures have pushed Jammu and Kashmir in a precipice of a disaster.
PDP spokesman in a statement issued here has said that the reported killing of three missing labourers from Rajouri in a staged encounter at south Kashmir’s Shopian has raised questions on all such encounters in recent months especially in view of the new decision not to identify bodies, or hand them over to families and bury them reportedly in remote, inaccessible, unidentified places.
The spokesman said that in order to justify its repressive, unconstitutional, inhuman and extremely violent measures upon the people of Kashmir, all government of India needs is a militancy narrative.
He added that armed forces in Kashmir have been given absolute impunity to detain, torture or kill innocent people. “Such an episode has elucidated why bodies, post encounters, are allowed to decompose at unknown locations. It is high time that impartial and high-level probes into recent encounters must be ordered,” said the PDP spokesman.
The incident of three labourers from Rajouri going missing from Shopian district from July 17 is a serious issue and needs a time-bound judicial probe, CPI (M) said.
“According to media reports the trio went missing just a day before the security forces claimed it killed three unidentified militants in Shopian. There are unverified reports that the missing labourers have been killed in a fake encounter in Shopian on July 18. This is shocking and must be probed by a sitting High Court judge in a time-bound manner,” reads the statement.
“In the past also unfortunate incidents of civilians being killed in fake encounters for rewards and promotions have been reported in Kashmir. The 2010 unrest was the creation of the Machil fake encounter. Those who are proved to be involved in such heinous crimes be brought to justice,” the statement added.
Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) president Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari urged the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to order a high level probe into the disappearance of three labourers–Imtiaz Ahmed, son of Sagar Hussain, Ibrar Ahmed, son of Bagha Khan and Ibrar Ahmed son of Mohammad Yousuf whose whereabouts are unknown since July 17.
“The Lt. Governor led government in J&K is expected to order and pursue a serious, impartial and transparent investigation that leaves no stone unturned in finding out what happened to these three poor labourers who have lost contact with their families since July 17. The truth behind their missing must be unearthed as quickly as possible,” he remarked in a statement issued here.
The JKAP president hoped that the government will assign the probe to some sitting judge who can lead the investigations while taking all the factors into consideration. Bukhari expressed solidarity with the families of these three missing labourers and assured them of all possible help in tracing the whereabouts of their loved ones.__Kashmir Observer