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Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Rajouri killings: Captain arranged car, weapons planted, say police

The document, filed before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Shopian, on December 26, raises questions on how a single officer planned and executed the encounter without the knowledge of seniors.

Written by Naveed Iqbal | Srinagar |
Updated: December 29, 2020 8:25:53 am
Killing of Rajouri youths: Police chargesheet Captain, 2 civiliansThe extension given to the Delimitation Commission means another year’s delay in holding Assembly elections in J&K. (Express Photo/File)

Captain Bhoopendra Singh, an Army officer, had prior-arranged an A-Star car, and the “incriminating material”, including “illegally acquired illegal weapons” loaded in it, were subsequently planted on the bodies of the three Rajouri youths killed in the Shopian encounter on July 18, according to the chargesheet filed by the J&K Police.

Captain Singh, who used the alias Major Basheer Khan, is named as an accused in the chargesheet along with two civilians — Tabish Nazir from Chowgam, Shopian, and Bilal Ahmad Lone from Nikas, Pulwama. The two civilians were arrested on September 28, 2020, more than two months after the killing of the three Rajouri youth.

In the chargesheet, the three have been accused of staging the encounter and the evidence, then destroying this evidence and “purposefully projecting false information” as part of a criminal conspiracy with the motive of grabbing Rs 20 lakh in prize money “earmarked for genuine information”.

The document, filed before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Shopian, on December 26, raises questions on how a single officer planned and executed the encounter without the knowledge of seniors. Also, on where the weapons — subsequently planted on the three deceased — were obtained from.

Additionally, call records of one of the numbers used by the Army officer confirm calls to a J&K police SPO, Fayaz Ahmad. His role in the incident has, however, not been made clear in the chargesheet. The SPO is included in the list of 75 witnesses in the chargesheet.

“During interrogation of the arrested accused (Tabish Nazir and Bilal Ahmad Lone), they disclosed the whole story of the day of the incident,” the chargesheet said. It said the two were in touch with Captain Singh alias Major Basheer Khan of 62 RR since June. Lone has turned approver in the case.

On July 18 — the day of killing, the two accused “reported at the Army Camp Reshinagri in his (Lone’s) car, an ALTO bearing Registration No. JK22B 3365; from there they accompanied Captain Bhoopendra Singh in another white colour private car.”

The “incriminating material” which the Army initially claimed was found on the person of the three deceased — who were then termed “unidentified militants” — included two pistols with two magazines and four empty pistol cartridges, 15 live cartridges and 15 empty cartridges of an AK series weapon.

The accused planted the “illegally acquired illegal weapons and material on their dead bodies after stripping them off their identities associated with their non-involvement, tagging them as hardcore terrorists, the chargesheet said.

The three accused – the Army officer and the two civilians — have been charged under Section 302 (murder), Section 364 (abduction), Section 201 (destruction of evidence), Section 436, 120-B (criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death) and Section 182 of Indian Penal Code and Section 7/25 of Indian Arms Act (possession or carrying of prohibited arms or ammunition).

While the civilians have been arrested and are in judicial custody, the Army officer is “yet to be arrested for procedures under AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) and the Army Act, whereas sanction is also required to be obtained for launching prosecution against him”, the chargesheet noted.

According to the chargesheet, the three accused drove to Chowgam Shopian, where the Rajouri youth lived in a rented room. The place of their residence was less than 100 meters from the 62 RR camp and about 20 meters across the road from the residence of the co-accused Tabish Nazir.

The chargesheet stated they “abducted three persons” — Abrar Khan, Abrar Ahmed and Imtiaz, all belonging to Rajouri — “from their rented accommodation in a residential house using the same car and transported them to the scene of occurrence at Amshipora while also travelling a distance on foot.”

Imtaiz had been working with a person, Mohoammad Yousuf, from Chowgam since 2018 and had brought two of his cousins to work in Chowgam in July.

Noting that no police report was taken before establishing contact with the alleged militants at the site of the encounter, the chargesheet said the officer did not inform his seniors “till the last moment of design.”

It also noted that CO 62 RR “intimated that accused Captain Bhoopendra Singh @ Major has been put under closed arrest w.e.f 15 Aug 2020 who was produced before SIT and interrogated and IR (interrogation report) was recorded.”

From the questioning of the accused Captain Singh “the version stated by accused Tabish Nazir and Bilal Ahmed Lone was corroborated substantially while it has transpired that the deceased were abducted from their rented accommodation at Chowgam near the Chowgam Army Camp by the trio accused while they used a white colour private car.”

The car used to “abduct and transport” victims to an unattended shelter in an orchard at Amshipora where they were murdered was obtained by Army personnel a day before the encounter.

In his statement, Aijaz Ahmed Lone “deposed before the court that Army personnel of Reshinagri Camp had approached him at his residential house at Reshinagri on 17.07.2020 on the eve before the incident took place and took his Vehicle A- Star bearing registration No. DL8CU 0649 with them.”

The next day, he said that the army “informed him that the said vehicle was lying at Amshipora Nar in faulty condition.”

Depositions of four army personnel have been recorded, stating that Captain Singh “had proceeded alone from camp along with two civilians.”

There are records of scores of calls between the two accused and the one approver, leading up to the day of the incident. Call Data Records of three show that accused Tabish Nazir has calls with Bilal Ahmed Lone 188 times from February 29 up to the last call on August 11, 2020. “Accused Captain Bhoopendra Singh has 91 calls with Bilal Ahmed Lone with first call on 23.06.2020 upto call on 16.07.2020,” the chargesheet said.

He had multiple numbers in use and on one of those numbers “13 calls with Tabish Nazir on 14, 15, 16 and 17th of July 2020″ were recorded. He also called the co-accused Tabish 195 times, the last call being made on July 17 at 1633 hrs, hours before the three civilians were killed.

A copy of the SITREP provided to the SIT by 62 RR also records that the cordon was laid after initial firing by the accused himself. “Captain Bhoopendra Singh had claimed to have fired a total of 37 rounds from his service rifle which includes the rounds fired by him when he was alone with the three individuals.

The bodies of the three civilians from Rajouri were exhumed on October 3 and returned to their families. The last statement from the Army on the encounter was issued on December 24, where PRO Defence in Srinagar said that “the process of recording the ‘summary of evidence’ has been completed. The same is being examined by the concerned authorities in consultation with legal advisors for proceeding further.”

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