‘Awaiting a Trial’- Two-Year-old Son Calls Father Murdered in Shopian Fake Encounter

Kounsar Bashir

Mohammed Yusuf has been doing rounds of the Shopian district court since December last year in regards to the hearing of the case of his son, Abrar Ahmed. “My son was unfortunately stuck here and he left for Kashmir where the Forces were waiting for him, they shot him dead,” said Mohammed Yusuf, whose voice has grown weaker than the last year.

On July 18 last year, the Government Forces claimed that three Militants had been killed in an encounter in the Amshipura area of Shopian in South Kashmir. Ajay Katoch, a brigadier with the Indian Army told that on 18 July, At 0530 HRS, a search party of the Government moved inside a ‘newly constructed house’, where they came under heavy fire yet again, the Army retaliated, killing three Militants. He also claimed that heavy arms and ammunition were recovered from them which was handed over to Jammu Kashmir Police as per the Standard Operating Procedure, adding, “there was no collateral damage during the encounter.”

Immediately after the Encounter, Almost five families from Shopian whose sons were active Militants were called for identification of the Militants, however, all have rejected the three slain being their sons. The Army brigadier also claimed that they came under heavy AK-47 fire. Though only pistols were recovered from the slain. The trio was buried silently in a graveyard in North Kashmir.

Days later, Mohammed Yousuf was told that his son Abrar Ahmed, who was working in Shopian as a labourer has been killed along with two others in the encounter in Shopian Kashmir. The families claimed the three were innocent and the Army initially denied the claims. On 11 August, the families identified the bodies through a photograph that was doing rounds on Social media. On 18 September, the Indian Army said its soldiers in Kashmir exceeded their legal powers in the killings of three civilians.

Various encounters in Kashmir have come under a scanner after the families of the alleged Militants pleaded innocence of their kin. On April 29, 2010, three young men from Kupwara were promised jobs as porters with high wages by an army source. The trio was sold for Rs 50,000 each to the army and then taken to Kalaroos village in Machil near the Line of Control (LoC). On reaching near the LoC, the trio was instead handed over to soldiers of 4 Rajputana Rifles who killed them in the fake encounter and dubbed them as Pakistani militants.

As per the existing legal framework, a governor or the central government can declare a region to be a disturbed area under Section 3 of AFPSA, and thereby empower the armed forces to exercise extraordinary powers in that region.

In particular, Section 4 of the law allows the use of force, including the power to cause death, in certain situations in order to maintain public order. Such provisions exemplify the law’s departure from the core constitutional principle of civilian control over the armed forces.

At least 300 serving Army officers have sought protection from prosecution of armed forces personnel by civilian courts and law enforcement agencies in insurgency-hit areas.

Waiting for a Trial

The Jammu Kasmir Police filed the charge sheet against the erring Army personnel in which they said, “Army captain and the other two locals who were involved in falsely carrying out the encounter and planting weapons on the dead bodies of the three slain youth have failed to provide any information about the source of the weapons.”

According to the officials, the official of the Indian Army had also attempted to destroy the evidence.

The charge sheet filed by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Jammu and Kashmir Police before the chief judicial magistrate of Shopian district said that Captain Bhoopendra Singh of 62 RR had also provided wrong information to his superiors and the police about the recovery made during the staged encounter.

The three youths killed in Amshipura were Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohammed Ibrar, all hailing from Rajouri district. Their identities were subsequently confirmed through a DNA test and the bodies were handed over to their families in Baramulla in October last year.

“By staging the encounter,” the three accused “have purposefully destroyed evidence or real crime that they have committed and also have (been) purposefully projecting false information as part of a criminal conspiracy hatched between them with the motive to grab a prize money of Rs. 20 lakh,” it said.

Army had previously denied all allegations that were imposed on Captain Singh (the prime accused) of Amshipura, Shopian encounter and initially said that there is no system of cash rewards for its personnel for any acts in combat situations or otherwise in the line of duty.

Mohammed Yousuf, the father of Abrar Ahmed along with the fathers of two others reached the Kashmir valley on 12 August 2020 and demanded the bodies of the trio be exhumed. ‘We ran from pillar to post and then finally we got the bodies of our children back.” Today Yousuf says he was promised justice by the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha during his visit to the house of Abrar Ahmed looks frail, yet determined to fight for “get the culprits hanged.”

“It has been a year now and still justice seems a distant goal post, I was hopeful when my case got into the Court thinking that we will get justice but nothing has happened, ” Yousuf told The Kashmiriyat over the phone.

The case file is in Shopian Court from and the last hearing was on 31 December 2020, he said, adding, “I went to Shopian court last week and spend Rs 3000 to get the copies. I don’t want anything, murder was proved and I want the culprits to be hanged so that they should know how it feels to kill someone’s kids. Our kids do not deserve to be killed like this.”

Survived by a young son and a wife, Abrar Ahmed had just returned from the gulf and the lockdown triggered a labour crisis. Abrar was among these people marred by lockdowns. “Everyone has to die but it is sad that they were killed for no reason. If my son would have died as a militant I can surely tell you, they would have put all of me behind bars,” he alleges

Saying that Compensatory justice is not the solution to redress issues of Justice and human rights violations, he said, the Lieutenant Governor gave the family a compensation of 5 Lacs but I returned it saying it was not my cow who died, it was my son who had been shot dead. Adding, he said that L.G took the money back but later gave it to DC Rajouri, Sheikh Nazir, and he handed over that money to the family promising that justce will be served.

Anees Looks for his Father

Inconsolable and distorted as Yousuf waits for justice and to hear back from the officials, he said, “It has been more than a year now, that we have been waiting to see these men who murder for money to be hanged. The ones with power are failing us miserably.”

“Why is it taking the officials so long to give us Justice? Why are they failing the system? Our families do not need anything. We just want justice for the innocent children of ours.”

Anees Chouhan, the 24-month-old son of Abrar Ahmed often cries the name of his father. He has been waiting that his father who has been killed in Shopian will come back home with juice, eatables and clothes for him to wear. In despair, Shareen (wife of Abrar Ahmed) is perplexed and baffled when their two-year-old son asks about his father.

Talking about the jobs given to the family of the trio, Yousuf said that my daughter’s ( daughter-in-law) file is in the DC office in Rajouri for the past year and I am not if she will be given a job or not. Let us see what type of job they are going to give us for my son’s murder.

Meanwhile, tribal Rights Activist, Guftar Choudhary talking to The Kashmiriyat said that my concern is, even after one year we don’t know what happened to the persons, officers involved in the murder of Trio.

Justice did not prevail, Guftar said, adding, “if they (administration) will not set an example for the murderers of three innocent boys, how can we expect there will not be any fake encounter in future.”

Choudhary further said that compensation was given to the families, that was supposed to happen and it is the other thing whether it was enough or not. “The families will be given three civil jobs, the process is completed and will be done in a couple of weeks,” he added

(Courtesy The Kashmiriyat)