‘Justice half-done,’ say families of three youth killed in Kashmir fake encounter

Photographs of the three young labourers from Rajouri who were killed in a fake encounter in Amshipora on July 18, 2020. | Picture: Article 14

An Army court on Monday sentenced an Army captain to life imprisonment for his involvement in a staged gunfight in Shopian in 2020. 

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Auqib Javeed | TwoCircles.net

SRINAGAR (JAMMU & KASHMIR) — The families of three youngsters who were killed in a fake encounter by the Indian Army on July 18, 2020, in South Kashmir’s Shopian district have expressed their satisfaction after an army court handed a life sentence to the captain who was involved in a staged encounter.

On 19 July 2020, the army said that they killed three unidentified militants on the intervening night of 17 and 18 July, after receiving “intelligence inputs” about the presence of 4 to 5 unidentified militants in Amshipora village of Shopian.

However, as soon as the pictures of the trio went viral on social media, three families from Jammu’s Rajouri district claimed that the slain men were their kin who had gone to Shopian to work as labourers and said they had nothing to do with militancy.

The trio were identified as – Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohammed Ibrar all from the Rajouri district of Jammu division.

The controversial encounter had led to massive outrage, prompting the authorities in J&K and the Indian Army to investigate the killings.

Following public outcry over claims of a staged encounter, the Army came under intense pressure to order an inquiry. In September 2020, the Army – after completing its Court of Inquiry – found prima facie evidence that the three involved soldiers had exceeded their powers which were vested in them under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) – a law that has often been described by human rights groups as ‘wide-ranging and repressive.’

The identity of the three youths was subsequently confirmed through a DNA test. The bodies were handed over to their families in Baramulla in October 2020 and buried in their native village in Rajouri. The families were provided compensation of Rs 5 lakh by the government.

Army in December 2020 said that it has completed the Summary of Evidence in the inquiry and two army personnel are likely to face court martial for violating powers under AFSPA.

On January 11 2021, the Jammu and Kashmir police said that Captain Bhupinder Singh of the Indian Army conspired with two civilians to carry out the operation for reward money of Rs 20 lakh.

“By staging the encounter, Capt Bhupinder Singh of 62 RR [Rashtriya Rifles] and two other civilians also purposefully destroyed evidence of the real crime that they have committed and also have been purposefully projecting false information as part of a criminal conspiracy hatched between them with a motive to grab prize money of Rs 20 lakh,” the police was quoted as saying by PTI.

On 5 March 2023, completing general court-martial proceedings, an Army court recommended life imprisonment for the captain in connection with the killing of three men in a “staged” encounter.

The officials said the court martial proceedings were initiated against Captain Singh for violating the powers vested under the AFSPA and for not following the dos and don’ts of the Army as approved by the Supreme Court.

The Army had also called Mohammed Yusuf, the father of Abrar Ahmed, from Rajouri for deposing in the court martial proceedings during which he was asked to provide a missing report about his son.

Mohammad Yusuf, the father of Abrar Ahmad, 25, told TwoCircles.net that they are satisfied with the verdict but the “justice is half done.”

“We are thankful to the Army, Police and media who stood by us and finally the culprits will have to face the music of law,” said Yousuf.

He further added that even if his son won’t come back, the family will be at ease after the verdict. Adding that “until the government won’t provide the job to the families, as promised justice will be half only,”

Bagga Khan, the father of another youth Mohammad Abrar, told TwoCircles.net that even the families are satisfied with the Army’s announcement and demanded strict punishment for others who were involved in the operation.

“The government should also provide us with jobs. We request LG Monoj Sinha sahib to fulfil his promise of providing the jobs,” Khan added.

Notably, the J&K police named two civilians in the charge sheet alleged by the police who had allegedly helped the captain in executing the operation. They were identified as Tabish Nazir and Bilal Ahmed Lone.

Auqib Javeed is a journalist based in Kashmir. He tweets @AuqibJaveed