The Kashmir Police, on Tuesday, said they will carry out DNA matching and identification to verify the claims of families from Rajouri that the “three militants” killed in an operation on July18 in Shopian were their relatives who had travelled to Shopian in search of work and did not have anything to do with militancy.
“Taking cognisance of the matter, Shopian Police will examine the claims and carry out DNA sampling for matching purposes,” a statement from the police said. “Police will also investigate all other aspects as per the law in due course of time,” it added.
It said the police in Rajouri was approached by some families on Monday, claiming that their relatives had gone to Shopian, looking for work, and contacted them on phone on July 17. When the three men did not contact their families, the latter decided to lodge a missing report on Monday.
“Meanwhile, social media reported that the terrorists killed in an operation at Shopian on 18/07/2020 are reportedly their relatives,” the statement said.
It said the police had provided sufficient time for identification of the bodies. However, the dead bodies could not be identified and they were buried in the presence of a magistrate after conducting autopsy and taking DNA samples.
A controversy erupted after the families of three labourers, Imtiaz Ahmed, Ibrar Ahmed and his namesake Ibrar Ahmed, lodged a missing person complaint with the Rajouri police, saying they have not heard from the trio since July 17.
According to news reports, one of the “three militants” was identified by his family from the photos that were taken after the encounter.
Guftar Ahmed Chaudhary, a social activist in Rajouri, told THE WEEK that three men had traveled to Shopian in south Kashmir for work and called home on July 17.
“They told their families they have reached Shopian and have also rented a room and will now look for work,’’ Chaudhary said. He added after that, the trio never contacted their families again.
He said initially the families felt the men were not calling home due to network problems or because they were in quarantine. The families became more anxious as the days passed, and finally lodged a complaint, he added.
Srinagar-based defence spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia, in a statement, said the Army has taken note of the information on social media linked to the operation 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 statement said. It further said the Army is investigating the issue.
Reacting to the news report about the killing of three young labourers in an alleged fake encounter, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, whose Twitter account is handled by her daughter Iltija Mufti, said in a tweet that she was shocked by the reports.
“Shocked to hear about reports of 3 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,’’ Mufti said.
CPI (M) leader M.Y. Tarigami said 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, he added.
Tarigami said in the past too, civilians have been killed in fake encounters for rewards and promotions. He said the 2010 unrest was the result of the Machil fake encounter.
The National Conference expressed grave concern over disappearance of three the youths and said the development caused a lot of distress and anguish in the entire area.
In a joint statement, senior party leaders, headed by provincial president Devender Singh Rana, urged the administration to mobilise the police for tracing the missing boys earnestly and let their families know about their welfare and whereabouts.
The statement said the party also constituted a two-member team to explore legal options and if necessary, file a habeas corpus petition in the high court over disappearance of the youths.
Meanwhile, Army has also taken note of the claims by the families and those on the social media regarding the said operation and initiated an investigation.