Nearly three weeks ago, on July 18, security forces in Shopian district of Kashmir claimed to have killed three militants. On August 10, pictures of three youth lying dead on the road at Mirzapur in Shopian went viral on social media and were immediately recognized by their family members who had last been in touch with them on July 17 and had since filed a police report. The three, identified as 17-year-old Ibrar Ahmad, 25-year-old Imtiyaz Ahmad and 20-year-old Abrar Ahmed, had traveled from Rajouri in Jammu to Shopian in the Kashmir valley in search of work as laborers. Their relatives say they were killed in a staged encounter.
The father of one of the deceased youngsters told reporters that his son Abrar, along with his relative Ibrar, had gone to Shopian district in search of work and had no connection with militancy. On July 16, both of them reached southern Kashmir. “Since then, we don’t know anything about their whereabouts. I rang him up on July 18 but his phone was switched off,” Abrar’s father, Mohammad Yousuf, told The Wire.
In their dossier, the Jammu and Kashmir police claimed to have carried out an encounter in the village of Amshipora area of district Shopian on July 18. It is further stated that they fired upon and killed “three unidentified terrorists” during the search operation.
After the three youth were killed, 60-year-old Lal Din Khatana was called to identify the dead in an orchard near his house where the encounter reportedly happened. According to Khatana, they appeared more like civilians. He told Newsclick that one of them was wearing slippers and the other two had torn shoes.
Stressing on the seriousness of the issue, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in their statement noted: “There are unverified reports that the missing laborers 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. In the past also unfortunate incidents of civilians being killed in fake encounters for rewards and promotions have been reported in Kashmir. The 2010 unrest was the creation of the Machil fake encounter. Those who are proved to be involved in such heinous crimes be brought to justice.”
Meanwhile, Naseeb Khatana, a relative of the killed men, said, “We are asking the authorities to give us back their dead bodies and tell us why they have been killed in a fake encounter,” and demanded “justice for the cold blooded murder.”
The police have said they will carry out a DNA test to identify the victims.
Such incidents have brought back memories of similar encounters in the Machil and Pathribal regions of Kashmir. In Machil, three civilians were killed in cold blood by the security forces in 2010 while five civilians were killed in a similar encounter in Pathribal in 2000.