Srinagar: The families of three missing youth from Jammu’s Rajouri district are apprehensive that they may been killed in a “fake encounter” in Shopian district last month on July 18, a day after they spoke to the youth for one last time.
The family of the three youth -- Imtiyaz Ahmed (25), Abrar Ahmad (20) and Ibrar Ahmad (17) -- filed a missing report in a Rajouri police station yesterday nearly a month after they had left their respective homes to find work as labourers in the Valley. The three are related to each other and one of the relatives Naseeb Ahmad said that they had left on foot for their journey.
Before they went missing, the victims had taken an alternative mountainous route close to Mughal road for their journey into Kashmir valley. “We spoke to them for the last time at about 7:30 PM on July 17 and haven’t heard from them ever since,” Naseeb said.
Earlier, the families had thought that the youth had been put into quarantine which is why they were unable to communicate with them. However, with the passage of time they realised that there was a problem.
Soon after the victims’ pictures were circulated on social media platforms, a picture of three slain youth claimed to have been killed during an encounter in Shopian also went viral. Naseeb believes that one among the youths is his missing relative.
“We are asking the authorities to give us back their dead bodies and tell us why they have been killed in a fake encounter,” Naseeb said.
The Indian Army’s defence spokesperson Col. Rajesh Kalia told NewsClick that they have launched an investigation in the matter.
“We have noted social media inputs linked to the operation 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. Army is investigating the matter,” Kalia said.
Following the July 18 operation in Shopian, the police statement read that the encounter in Amshipora village of Shopian was carried after a specific intelligence input by 62RR and that the police and CRPF had joined the operation later on.
“During 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 statement read.
According to the police, the slain militants were shifted to Baramulla district in North Kashmir for their last rites after their DNA was collected. The police have registered a case, FIR No. 42/2020, at Police Station Hirpora in Shopian.
Meanwhile, the alleged fake encounter has been condemned by various political parties who are now demanding a probe into the matter. People’s Democratic Party has termed the reports of missing labourers killed in the alleged “staged encounter” as “shocking and extremely excruciating episode”.
“The reported killing 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,” a PDP spokesperson said.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) in its statement has termed the incident as a “serious issue” that needs a time-bound judicial probe.
“In the past too, 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,” the CPI (M) statement read.
Nearly 150 militants have been killed in year 2020 so far, a majority of them in South Kashmir. Dozens have been killed in Shopian district especially in the month of June at a time when the region was under lockdown for COVID-19. Due to the pandemic, the authorities buried the militants in mountainous areas of North Kashmir in Baramulla and Ganderbal districts to avoid public gathering during the funerals.