The social media grapevine and sections of local media are filled with the buzz. Three young civilians are missing from Rajouri and some people are looking for their possible connection with three ‘militants’ killed in an ‘encounter’ last month.
All this started today afternoon when local news gatherers reported that three families from Rajouri district have filed a written report about their sons who are missing from the last three weeks.
Identified as Ibrar Ahmad (15) son of Bagga Khan, Ibrar Ahmad (25) son of Mohammad Yousuf and Imtiyaz Ahmad (20) son of Sabir Hussain, the trio, left their home village Dhar Sakri in Rajouri’s Peeri tehsil on July 16 to find work in Kashmir. Lal Hussain, a relative of the missing persons, told Global News Service that they called their families for the last time on July 17 informing that they had reached Shopian and got a room on rent.
Asked why the families delayed in filing the report, Hussain said that they had previously no clues about their missing making them believe that the boys had not contacted them again due to ‘connectivity problems’ in Kashmir.
Guftar Ahmed Chowdhary, a social activist, told media that the families initially thought they might have been put in quarantine and might contact soon but when they did not they reached out to him and went to register an FIR.
Some photographs are already circulating on social media. One such photo is a collage of three dead bodies two of which strikingly resemble with two of the missing youth. The third, marked with two bullet marks on its back, cannot be identified because of clothes covering the head.
Who identified the trio and how?
Saleem Ahmad, a cousin of one of the missing, told News18 that he identified them through photos of ‘militants’ killed on July 18 in an ‘encounter’ with government forces in Amshipora village in South Kashmir’s Shopian district.
Saleem identified the one in the centre of the photograph (of the dead bodies) as his cousin, Ibrar Ahmad and the other two as ‘his relatives.’
Senior journalist Ahmed Ali Fayyaz took to Twitter to write: “All three ‘suspected militants’ killed in Amshipora Shopian ‘encounter on 18 July 2020, have been reportedly identified as the missing labourers of Rajouri on basis of photographs by the families. If true, first such case after the killing of 3 Nadihal civilians in Kupwara in 2010.”
Zafar Choudhary, another senior journalist, shared the photos of the three youth on Twitter writing: “The three boys killed in Amshipora were in my distant relation. I have just spoken to family, they’ve identified the beyond any doubt. They don’t remember the exact date of speaking to them last but say the news of death came on 22nd day of losing contact with them.”
What had happened in Shopian?
On July 18, Police issued a statement saying that, on a specific input by 62RR about the presence of militants in Amshipora village of Shopian, an operation was launched. During the search, the statement said, the hiding militants fired upon Army triggering an encounter. Later, Police and CRPF also joined the forces in killing three ‘unidentified terrorists’.
According to the statement, the dead bodies of the three militants, as has been the norm during the pandemic, were sent to Baramulla for burial with their medico-legal formalities conducted and DNA samples retained for later identification in case any family comes forward with a claim.
Police also claimed to have recovered incriminating materials, including arms and ammunition, from the ‘encounter’ site. A case FIR no. 42/2020 was also registered at Police Station Hirpora in this connection.
What did the authorities say?
Defence Spokesman in Srinagar, Colonel Rajesh Kalia, said: “We have noted social media inputs linked to the operation at Shopian on 18 July 2020. The three militants killed during the operation have not been identified and the bodies were buried based on established protocols. The army is investigating the matter.”
SSP Shopian, Amritpal Singh, was quoted by The Kashmir Monitor as saying that an FIR stands registered in the July 18 ‘encounter’ and no one from the Rajouri families has approached him yet. He, however, said that they are investigating the case.
Meanwhile, Rajouri Police has confirmed to the media that they have received the missing report on Sunday.
“We have not seen the pictures of the slain militants yet. We have received the missing report from the families and launched an investigation into the matter,” a report quoted a senior police officer at Rajouri saying.
A family member of one of the missing youth, speaking to KNO, said: “Our demand now is that DGP and IGP Kashmir should allow exhumation of bodies for DNA mapping. We are ready for cross-examinations of the samples. The photographs of the slain that have gone viral suggest the trio are our children.”
Social media is humming with angry reactions. Many are likening the case with the infamous Pathribal (2000) and Machil (2010) fake encounters in which the killed ‘militants’ later turned out to be civilians. Hashtag #ShopianFakeEncounter is already trending on Twitter.