Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir:
The army has initiated an inquiry into an “encounter” carried out by its troops in a South Kashmir village, in which three alleged terrorists were killed, after families in Jammu region’s Rajouri filed written complaints saying as many of their members involved in labour work were missing from the same area.
On July 18, the army said three terrorists were killed in the higher reaches of Shopian in South Kashmir. However, no further details were shared.
On Monday, 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.
“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,” Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.
This has sparked a controversy with political parties demanding an impartial probe into the alleged encounter to ensure speedy justice.
The controversy started after some families filed a complaint with a police station in Rajouri stating that their three members are missing since July 17 from Ashimpora area of Shopian where they were working as labourers in apple and walnut orchards.
The families, who filed the police complaint jointly, gave pictures of their family members — Mohammed Ibrar (21), Ibrar Ahmad (18) and Imtiaz Ahmad (26) — which were subsequently shared with the Kashmir police for investigation.
The relatives, belonging to Dhar Sakri village in Kotranka of Rajouri area in Poonch, filed the missing report with the local police after they failed to contact the thee men and news of an encounter came on July 18 from Ashimpora in Shopian, a police official said.
The official said some of their relatives have reached Shopian in the search of the three youths and were told that the missing men resembled those who were killed by the army in a “gunfight” in a village in the district on July 18.
The National Conference demanded a transparent probe into the incident and advised the administration to ensure that no-extrajudicial killings took place in Jammu and Kashmir.
The party sought to remind the authorities of the Machil fake encounter which resulted in an unrest across the Kashmir valley and asked for a “thorough probe and to ensure that the guilty are not spared”. Three unemployed youths were killed by the army in 2010 in North Kashmir and dubbed as militants. A probe later indicted army men for staging the fake encounter and a chargesheet was filed in court.
Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) president Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari sought an impartial and time bound probe to unearth the mystery behind the disappearance of the three poor labourers of Rajouri district.
In a statement, Mr Bukhari urged the new Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to order a high-level probe into the disappearance of the three labourers whose whereabouts were unknown since July 17.
“The Lt. Governor led government in JK 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 disappearance must be unearthed as quickly as possible,” he remarked.
The JKAP president said the government should assign the probe to a sitting judge who can lead the investigation while taking all the factors into consideration.
Mr Bukhari expressed solidarity with the families of the three missing labourers and assured them of all possible help in tracing the whereabouts of their loved ones.
Reacting to the incident, JK unit of CPI(M) said it is a serious issue and needs a time-bound judicial probe.
“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,” the party said in a statement.
Iltija, using her mother and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s twitter handle, expressed shock at the reports of three missing labourers reportedly killed in a staged encounter at Shopian.
“Armed forces have a free hand to operate with impunity. Explains why bodies are allowed to decompose at unknown locations. Probes into recent encounters must be ordered,” she said in a tweet.