Srinagar: The youth killed in the controversial Shopian “encounter” — which has been termed as “staged” by the Jammu and Kashmir police — were transported in a vehicle arranged beforehand and then made to walk towards a brick structure located in an apple orchard where they were eventually shot dead, the charge sheet filed by investigators has revealed.
The sequence of events that led to the killing of the three youth from Rajouri in a suspected staged encounter on 18 July has been pieced together by the J&K police in a detailed charge sheet, which was filed in a local court on 26 December.
The charge sheet has accused Captain Bhoopendra Singh of Indian Army’s Rashtriya Rifles 62 battalion and a civilian named Tabish Nazir Malik, who according to the police was known to the Army officer, of murder and abduction, among other charges, under the Indian Penal Code.
Civilian Bilal Ahmed Lone has also been named in the charge sheet, but hasn’t been charged. Lone has turned an approver in the case and is now the key witness in the J&K police-led investigation.
According to the charge sheet, the Army captain allegedly first abducted the youth with the help of his two accomplices, then killed them in cold blood and planted illegally acquired weapons and material on the dead bodies of the slain men identified as Ibrar Ahmed (16), Imtiyaz Ahmed (25) and Ibrar Ahmed (20). The trio were tagged as “hardcore terrorists”, the charge sheet said.
The night before the killing, arranged car
According to the charge sheet, a part of which has been accessed by ThePrint, Captain Bhoopendra Singh had been in touch with the two civilians named above since June, a month before the encounter took place in Shopian’s Amshipora village.
The police documents said the two were ultimately summoned by the officer, codenamed Major Basheer Khan, at the Army Camp Reshinagri on 17 July.
Piecing together the sequence of events on the night before the killing, the J&K police said that the duo went to meet Singh at the camp in an Alto car bearing the registration number JK 22B 3365, which belonged to Lone. The car was parked at the camp.
From there, the three men took another vehicle parked in the Army facility.
In its probe, a Special Investigation Team led by Deputy Superintendent of Police, Wajahat Hussain, found out that this car bearing registration number DL8CU 0649 was used to transport the Rajouri youth. This vehicle was found to have been arranged by a team of six personnel from the 62 RR at around 6.30 pm on 17 July.
Later in the night, the accused abducted three youths from their rented accommodation, hours after the trio had arrived from their homes in Rajouri to find work in Shopian.
They had taken up accommodation in Chowgam, which is close to the Army camp housing Rashtriya Rifles 62 battalion. The camp has since been taken over by 42 RR.
“…on 17.07.2020 they (accused) reported at Army Camp Reshinagri in his (Lone) car Alto bearing registration No JK 22B 3365 from there they accompanied accused Captain Bhoopendra in another white colour private car (Maruti Suzuki A Star) bearing registration no DL8CU 0649, prior arranged by the accused Captain Bhoopendra along with incriminating material loaded in it, to Chowgam Shopian from where they abducted three persons from their rented accommodation in a residential house using the same car and in it transported them to the scene of occurrence at Amshipora while also traveling a distance on foot,” the charge sheet said.
On 18 July, the vehicle’s owner was asked to collect the keys from the gate of the 62 RR camp in Shopian. The owner was informed that his vehicle was lying at Amshipora in a faulty condition and was asked to get the car fixed and send the bill to the Army for reimbursement.
Details about the youth and their killing
When the abduction took place, the Rajouri youth had purchased groceries and were resting at their rented accommodation.
Of these three youths killed in the encounter, Imtiyaz Ahmed had known accused Tabish Malik for some time. Malik was aware that Khan and the other two would be staying at the rented accommodation, which is close to Malik’s residence in Shopian’s Chowgam village.
According to the charge sheet, after reaching the place of the incident the Captain allegedly shot dead the three youths. The two civilians accompanying him, however, were asked to leave before the killings took place, the probe said.
Zahid Hussain, the advocate of the approver Bilal Lone, said the prosecution offered a plea deal to the accused as it was found out during the course of investigation that his involvement in the case might have not been as serious as the other two accused.
Sources in the administration said Lone was initially apprehended by Victor Force Army unit, which is in-charge of four districts of South Kashmir, and was handed over to J&K police subsequently. It was the Victor force which had first suspected the role of in the staged gunfight.
Besides arranging the car, the Army Captain also arranged the weapons illegally and fitted the vehicle with the same, said the charge sheet.
The post-mortem report of the three youths revealed that the cause of death was “multiple fire arm injuries” that caused “hemorrhagic shock leading to cardio respiratory arrest and death”, the charge sheet added.
The material listed to have been recovered from the slain men includes two pistols with two magazines, four empty pistols cartridges, 15 live cartridges and 15 empty cartridges of AK series weapon and other objectionable items, including two batteries and a gas cylinder.
At the time of the “staged” encounter, the material was shown as parts of a possible Improvised Explosive Device, the police said.
The investigation found that it was the Army officer who allegedly misled the entire unit into believing that the three men housed in the orchard were militants. However, eyebrows were raised within the unit when hardly any fires were returned from the “hardcore terrorists”.
How the bodies were identified
During the course of investigation, several people from different areas, including families of wanted militants, reached the police station in Heerpora and were shown the photographs of the three bodies marked A, B and C. However, no one could identify the bodies, the charge sheet said.
On 8 August, a wireless message was flashed to all station house officers and district offices to provide details of missing persons of UT of Jammu and Kashmir, the document said.
Subsequently, another wireless was flashed to all SHOs of India to inform the family members of the missing persons of their respective jurisdictions to attend PS Heerpora for identification of the dead bodies through taken photographs.
On 10 August, a signal was received from Rajouri mentioning that three youth had gone to Kashmir to work as labourers on 16 July but their whereabouts since were not known to the family, said the charge sheet.
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