A day after giving themselves a clean chit, the J&K Police’s Special Investigation Team (SIT) Wednesday issued an unusual warning threatening penal action against those critical of the police’s conclusions in the November 15 Hyderpora encounter. The SIT was constituted on November 16 to probe the encounter following questions raised by families of the three civilians killed in the action by the security forces.
The SIT’s warning on Wednesday comes after a chorus of outrage from political leaders and people to police statements at a press conference on Tuesday that one civilian was killed by the foreign militant and another in the crossfire. The third civilian from Ramban who was also killed in the encounter, the police said, was a militant, a claim denied by his father. The parties termed the police version as an attempt to “cover up” and “justify the murder”.
The JK Police had called the press conference even as the findings of a magisterial inquiry ordered by the J&K Lieutenant Governor have not been made public. The press conference on Tuesday was addressed by Deputy Inspector General and SIT in-charge Sujit Kumar. J&K Director General of Police Dilbag Singh and Inspector General (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar were also present.
Observing that it had come across media posts which cast doubts on the evidence obtained by the SIT so far, the Chairman of the SIT (Sujit Kumar) said in a statement, “Today on 29.12.2021 SIT (Special Investigation Team) came across several posts in media from some political leaders and family members wherein they have cast doubts on the evidence obtained by the SIT so far. These people have tried to call it ‘Concocted Cover up Story’, ‘Ornamental Probe, ‘Clean Chit to Killers’, ‘Fairy Tale of Police’, etc.”
“Such speculative statements from the political leaders have a tendency to create provocation, rumour, fear and alarm among the general masses or particular section of society. This kind of approach is against the rule of law and may attract appropriate penal provisions as envisaged under law,” it said.
The statement said that political leaders and family members should have approached the enquiry officer with “genuine evidence” after the District Magistrate invited the public to share any information about the incident. It further said, “The SIT constituted in the instant case is still investigating the matter, all such persons are once again advised to provide any type of evidence if they have regarding the incident so that every aspect of investigation is covered and concluded on merits.”
Former Chief Minister and National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah questioned the need for the police press conference, especially since the SIT was still investigating the case. “If the SIT is ‘still investigating the matter’, then what was the need to rush to the press with a statement yesterday (Tuesday)? I don’t recall reading anywhere that yesterday’s report was an interim one,” he said in a tweet.
The police want to get away with everything and want no questions asked, former Chief Minister and PDP President Mehbooba Mufti told The Indian Express. “They want to continue enjoying this culture of impunity and punish anyone who comes in the way. Crushing dissent and threatening people into silence has been normalised under the garb of rule of law,” she said.
CPM leader and PAGD spokesman M Y Tarigami said, “Police warning of a penal action is like a diktat and crossing all the limits of brazen bizarre display of authoritative tendency. Political leaders have every right to ask questions. Threatening the right to question is a breach of law and duty the police are supposed to uphold.”