Soldiers involved in a controversial encounter in which three terrorists were claimed to have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir's Shopian on July 18 have been indicted by the Indian Army. The army said that disciplinary action is being initiated against the accused troops.
The locals and families have alleged that the three young men were killed in a staged encounter and were cousins who were working as labourers in Shopian.
A court of inquiry instituted by the army has found that troops exceeded powers vested under Armed Forces Special Power Act or AFSPA and acted in contravention of the "Do's and Don'ts of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) approved by the Supreme Court".
"The inquiry ordered by the Army authorities into Op Amshipora has been concluded. The inquiry has brought out certain prima facie evidence indicating that during the operation, powers vested under the AFSPA 1990 were exceeded and the have been contravened," a defence spokesperson said.
"Consequently, the competent disciplinary authority has directed to initiate disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act against those found prima-facie answerable," he said.
The statement said that the evidence collected by the inquiry has indicated that the three unidentified terrorists killed in Op Amshipora were Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohd Ibrar, who hailed from Rajouri.
"Their DNA report is awaited. Their involvement with terrorism or related activities is under investigation by the police," the statement added.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah called for firm action against those found guilty.
The families of the three murdered men had continued to proclaim their innocence. Disciplinary action initiated by the army would suggest the army agrees with the families. The process must remain transparent & the guilty must face the full weight of the law. https://t.co/Na4o15UspD— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) September 18, 2020
The encounter had triggered a major outcry after photographs of the three young men surfaced on social media. The families identified them as three cousins who went missing on July 17 from a rented accommodation in the Chowgam village in Shopian district.
Their families said that 17-year-old Ibrar, 25-year-old Imtiyaz and 20-year-old Abrar Ahmed were labourers, who had gone to Shopian to work from Dhar Sakri village in Rajouri area in Poonch and had been out of contact since July 17, a day before the encounter.
Following the controversy, both the army and the police had said they would investigate the case. The locals had told NDTV that after the encounter, people in the area were called by the police and the army to identify the bodies - none of them turned out to be locals.
"We were called to identify the bodies. We could not identify any of them - they were not locals. They had bullets in their face, eyes and chest," said Mohammad Ashraf, a villager who lives just 100 meters from where the encounter took place.
Kashmir is one of the world's most militarised regions where the government says it has been trying to control Pakistan-sponsored terrorism for over 30 years.
Counter-terror operations and a heavy security presence even in residential areas are a common sight in the valley where thousands have been killed in terrorist attacks and military action.