Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – The Indian Army says its troops exceeded powers under the controversial Armed Forces Special Rights Act (AFSPA) in the killing of three local civilians in southern Indian-administered Kashmir earlier this year.
On July 18, the Indian Armed Forces stated that they killed three unidentified “rebels” in Ampsipora village in Shopian.
On Friday, an Indian Army spokesman said the victims were now identified as residents of Rajouri district, whose families had filed a complaint accusing the soldiers of killing them in a gun fight.
Army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said, “The investigation ordered by Army officials in Aumshipora has been terminated. The investigation has yielded some prima facie evidence which indicated that the powers under AFSPA 1990 were exceeded during the operation. . a statement.
“The evidence gathered from the interrogation states that the three unidentified terrorists killed in Opsipora were Imtiaz Ahmad, Abrar Ahmed and Mohammed Ibrar, who hail from Rajouri. Their DNA report is awaited. Their involvement in terrorism or related activities Is. Police investigated, “the statement said.
Police claimed that army personnel were shot during a search operation.
A few days after the incident, a picture of the three people killed went viral on social media, after which the three families identified them and filed a complaint.
After a rare entry into the army on Friday, Muhammad Nabar’s cousin Muhammad Naseeb Khatana conveyed the three men to Al Jazeera, all of them cousins, leaving Rajouri to work as laborers in Shopian.
Khatana said, “They arrived in Shopian on July 17 and we talked to them that evening. It was during the coronovirus lockdown and we thought they might have split up. We kept waiting but there was no news.”
“When we saw the picture, we filed a report, in which we identified our relatives, who were declared terrorists by the army. They could have done more injustice to innocent people.”
Another family member said he was deliberately denied the DNA report “for a very long time”.
“On August 3, our samples were taken and there are no reports yet,” the relative said.
“Today, they called one member of each family and admitted that all three had been killed in a fake encounter. We want them to bring those who were killed and punish us. We are members of our family. Want the dead bodies. ”
Ibrar, the youngest of the three, worked as a laborer to save money for his education, his family told Al Jazeera.
Human rights activists in Kashmir see the encounter as a gun battle in which civilians were labeled “rebels” and killed by the military to claim monetary benefits and medals.
In May 2010, large-scale protests erupted in Kashmir, following a police investigation that killed three civilians in a gunfight in the Machil area near the Line of Control in the border Kupwara district.
The three laborers were lured to Machil and were killed there before the army marked “militants” to claim a reward.
Under AFSPA, an anti-terrorism law with broad provisions, security forces enjoy “widespread impurity”.
It “empowers” members of the armed forces in “disturbed areas” such as Kashmir to shoot or arrest suspects.
Section 7 of AFSPA provides virtual impurity for human rights violations by security forces personnel, as any civil prosecution can proceed only after obtaining prior approval from the central government.
In 30 years this law has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir, this authority has never been given.
A famous human rights lawyer in the area, Pervez Imroz, told Al Jazeera, “This incident cannot be taken in isolation.
“They were civilians, it is not mentioned in the statement. It mentions them as terrorists.”
“This incident cannot be isolated, the culture of the army needs to be looked at in 30 years. History is that there is full force in the army, they cannot be prosecuted and punished.” .
“They may try to informally silence the families which they have done in many cases in Kashmir.”