SRINAGAR: The Army on Monday said that it has launched an investigation into the rumour that three alleged militants killed during an operation in Jammu and Kashmir’s southern Shopian district on July 18 were actually labourers from frontier Rajouri district who had arrived in the area a day before to earn their living.
"We have noted social media inputs linked to the operation in Shopian on July 18, 2020. The three terrorists killed during the operation have not been identified and the bodies were buried based on established protocols. Army is investigating the matter," defence spokesman, Colonel Rajesh Kalia, said in a statement here.
Earlier during the day on Monday, various political parties and human rights activists in J&K had demanded an impartial probe into the sudden disappearance of three labourers soon after they had arrived in militancy-infested Shopian from Rajouri on July 17.
The families of the missing persons Imtiaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed Khan and Abrar Yusuf on Sunday lodged an FIR at Peeri Police Post in Rajouri district that their kin are missing since July 17. The trio, aged 18, 21 and 26 years respectively, had last called their families on July 17 informing them they had reached Shopian and got a room on rent.
"They last called on July 17 when they informed the families that they have reached Shopian where they have taken a room on rent," Lal Hussian, a relative of one of the missing persons, told a local news Global News Service (GNS). Asked reason for filing the missing report now, he said, "We thought there are connectivity problems in Kashmir for one or the other reasons and we were waiting that they will call soon".
Station House Officer (SHO) Kotranka, Mustaq Ahmed, confirmed that a written report has been received in this regard.
Rumours rife back in Shopian say that the trio may have been the same youth who were killed by the Army apparently in a fake encounter in the district’s Amshipora village on July 18.
CPIM’s Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami in a statement said that it was a serious issue which needs a time-bound judicial probe. "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 said.
Iltija Mufti, daughter of former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, tweeted, "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".
The PDP officially said that the reported staged encounter in Shopian is "shocking and extremely excruciating episode". It added, "Such repressive measures have pushed J&K into a precipice of a disaster".