Srinagar: After the families of three youth from Rajouri claimed that the trio was killed in a “staged encounter” in Amshipora village of Shopian on July 18, the Army on Friday said the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was exceeded in the incident.
The Army had launched an internal probe in the incident after the families of the three youth identified as Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohd Ibrar raised a cry over their kin being framed as militants following the pictures of the slain youth surfacing on social media.
The Army said it has concluded the inquiry into the incident and found that the personnel involved in the operation have violated their powers and exceeded the AFSPA, which grants them special powers in “disturbed” areas like Jammu and Kashmir.
“The prima facie evidence indicates that during the operation, powers vested under the AFSPA 1990 were exceeded and the Do’s and Don’ts of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) as approved by the Honorable Supreme Court have been contravened,” the Army spokesperson said.
A “disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act against those found prima-facie answerable” has also been initiated.
The Army, however, said that the DNA report in the incident is still “awaited.” Incidentally, the statement has not identified the Rajouri youth as civilians but has referred to them as “unidentified terrorists”. “Their involvement with terrorism or related activities is under investigation by the police,” the statement said.
The police who have come under flak, especially online, for its delayed response in the incident, are yet to submit a report regarding the claims made by the families of the slain youths saying their sons were wrongly passed off as militants.
Mohammad Yousuf, father of Ibrar Ahmed (20)--the youngest among the three youth killed in Amshipora--says that he feels “vindicated” but wants those involved in the “murder to be severely punished.”
“I have been saying from the very start that these three young men had no link to militancy and we know that further investigation will prove the same but we want the culprits to be hanged till death,” he told NewsClick.
Yousuf says that Ibrar’s killing has pushed him into depression. “I am unable to sleep and I want the authorities to hand us over their bodies so that we can bury our sons with our own hands. I want to visit my son’s grave every day, touch the soil and feel him,” he said.
Another slain youth Imitiaz Ahmed’s father still awaits his son’s DNA report. Shabar Hussain, the father, says the authorities are taking a lot time in the investigation.
“I am dying. Can they bring me back to life? Can they bring my son back? My son was not a terrorist. He was the bread winner of our family,” Shabir said.
The three youth were killed in an operation earlier on July 18 at an apple orchard in Mirzapur Chak area of Shopian. A day before, the trio had arrived in the Kashmir Valley to work as labourers and had rented a room close to Chowgam army camp in Shopian, barely 10 km from the encounter site. The families of the three youth had lost contact with them and believed that they had been put under quarantine due to the Covid-19 situation. However, as their pictures emerged on social media two weeks later, the family members identified them. Their bodies have been buried in North Kashmir’s Baramulla district, about 100 km from the encounter site. The families are awaiting the return of the bodies.
The Army is yet to acknowledge that the encounter was “stage managed.”
“The army statement claims that the involvement in militancy of the three deceased people in the encounter is under investigation, which clearly means that so far army does not believe that the encounter was fake and that those killed were civilians,” human rights activist Khurram Parvez said.
AFSPA, deemed as draconian by rights bodies, was implemented in the region in year 1990 after Kashmir Valley was declared a disturbed area. The law, which gives armed forces impunity against prosecution, has since been defended by the armed forces and any proposal to withdraw it has been rejected by them.