On July 16, Imtiyaz Ahmad and his two cousins, who had arrived from Rajouri to find work as labourers in the Valley, rented a room in Chowgam village of Shopian. Two days later, they had lost touch with their families back home. On Monday, the families claimed the three “unidentified” men killed in an “encounter” by the Army on July 18 were Ahmad and his cousins Mohammed Ibrar and Ibrar Ahmed.
The Army’s 62 Rashtriya Rifles had claimed the “encounter”. Its camp is located 100 metres from where the three Rajouri youths stayed. The orchards in Amshipora where the Army said the alleged pre-dawn encounter took place is located around 10 km from Chowgam.
The Army said it was probing the matter, after the families said they had identified the three from pictures of the alleged militants that had surfaced on social media. They have said that one of the three killed, Ibrar Ahmed, was just 16. On Tuesday, the J&K Police, that had earlier distanced itself from the encounter, saying it was carried out on Army inputs, said it would also investigate the case. “Taking cognizance of the claim by the families and media reports, the Shopian Police will carry out DNA sampling. The police will also investigate all other aspects,” it said. Shakeel Ahmad, who rented the room to Imtiyaz, said he had come on July 16 with two others. “I have two rooms. He (Imtiyaz) asked for one on rent. I told him I could not give it as I didn’t know him. He said he had been coming to Shopian for work for two years, and gave the reference of Chowgam’s village numberdar (a local village head). So I agreed to rent him the room.”
They negotiated Rs 1,600 as the monthly rent. “He (Imtiyaz) told us they don’t know where their work could take them, and they could be out for as long as 10 days sometimes,” Ahmad said, adding he last saw the three on July 17. Chowgam’s numberdar Mohammad Yousuf Lone confirmed he had met Imtiyaz before he went missing. “He had been coming to our village for some years now,” Lone said.
In its statement, the J&K Police said it had waited for the identification of the bodies of the alleged militants killed on July 18. But after no one came forward after “sufficient time” had passed, they had buried them in the presence of a magistrate after post-mortem and lifting of DNA samples.
On Tuesday, political parties in the Valley demanded an immediate and impartial probe into the “encounter”, calling it an outcome of “a culture of impunity”.
“The encounter in Shopian is yet again an ugly reminder of the fake nature of claims made by security forces,” Chairman of Peoples Conference Sajad Lone tweeted. “The tolerance for such incidents in the rest of the country is scary. Not a word has been uttered.”
Iltija Mufti, daughter of PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, questioned the government’s new practice to bury the slain militants at unidentified locations without identifying them, since the pandemic began. “The Armed forces have a free hand… Explains why bodies are allowed to decompose at unknown locations. Probes into recent encounters must be ordered,” she tweeted from her mother’s handle. “Clearly GoI needs the militancy narrative to justify repression and violent measures.”
CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami demanded a time-bound probe by a sitting High Court judge. “In the past also unfortunate incidents of civilians being killed in fake encounters for rewards and promotions have been reported in Kashmir. Those proved to be involved in such heinous crimes should be brought to justice,” he said.
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