Srinagar: DNA samples of the three youth from Jammu’s Rajouri area who went missing on 17 July have matched those of the individuals killed in an alleged gunfight the next day in south Kashmir’s Shopian region, raising further questions about the controversial encounter.
Back in August, pictures of the three bodies from the Shopian encounter circulated on social media, and the families of the missing youth in Rajouri identified the dead as their relatives — Ibrar Ahmed (16), Imtiyaz Ahmed (25) and Ibrar Ahmed (20). The families had also filed a missing persons’ report in Rajouri.
“We have received the DNA samples from the three families of Rajouri. The samples have matched with those collected from those killed in the Amshipora encounter in Shopian. We will take further course of action and complete the remaining formalities,” J&K Police’s IG (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar said, while announcing the DNA match in a press conference in Srinagar Friday evening.
Kumar added that the J&K Police will conduct questioning as part of its probe into the incident.
Meanwhile, the families of the youth expressed their desire to receive the bodies, which are buried in Kashmir, so that their last rites can be conducted.
Army also probing
Kumar pointed out that the Army is also investigating the matter. The Army had issued a statement last week, in which it said prima facie evidence shows that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFPSA) had been “exceeded”, and that directions had been passed to initiate disciplinary proceedings against erring officials.
“The inquiry has brought out certain prima facie evidence indicating that during the operation, powers vested under the AFSPA 1990 were exceeded and the dos and don’ts of Chief of Army Staff as approved by the Supreme Court have been contravened. Consequently, the competent disciplinary authority has directed to initiate disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act against those found prima-facie answerable,” the Army had said.
On 18 July, a press statement issued by the J&K Police stated that the Shopian encounter followed a “specific input by 62RR (Rashtriya Rifles) about the presence of terrorists in the village Amshipora area of district Shopian”.
The press statement marked a slight departure from the usual media missives issued to announce encounters. Statements about joint operations in the Valley do not generally dwell on the chronology of participation, and just name the agencies involved. The 18 July statement, however, specified that police and the CRPF joined the encounter “later”.
The police said the identities of the three men were being ascertained, they were subsequently buried at a graveyard in Baramulla reserved for foreign militants. The graveyard had been reserved to prevent large funeral gatherings for dead militants amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, when the pictures of the three men killed in Shopian appeared on social media, questions were raised about the encounter. The subsequent political and social media outrage forced the Army and the police to initiate investigations.
On 10 August, ThePrint had retraced the journey of the three young men since they arrived in Shopian.
The three, who were all related, worked as labourers and were seeking employment in an apple orchard. They had left their residence on 16 July on foot, called home the next day at 7.30 pm from Shopian, and had even taken up a room before disappearing on the night of 17 July, their family had said.
Now, the families just want their bodies back, and want action against the officials who killed them.
“We just want the bodies to be returned to us so that we can offer a janazah (funeral prayer) and bury our relatives in a graveyard in the village. We want them to be buried near their home. We also want to see the faces of the people who did this to them, and see that they are punished,” said Naseeb Ahmed, a relative of the youth, said.
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