Srinagar: The controversial Shopian encounter in July was staged by the Army Captain and two civilians who were chargesheeted a day earlier, the Jammu and Kashmir Police said Sunday.
In a statement, the police noted that Captain Bhoopendra Singh of Rashtriya Rifles 62 battalion, Tabish Nazir Malik of Chowgam area in Shopian district, and Bilal Ahmed Lone from Pulwama, conspired to abduct and stage the ‘encounter’ of three youths who had been reported missing by their families based in Rajouri.
The accused allegedly planted illegally acquired weapons and material on the dead bodies of the three youths — Ibrar Ahmed (16), Imtiyaz Ahmed (25) and Ibrar Ahmed (20) — to tag them as terrorists.
The three youths had travelled all the way from their homes to Shopian to find work in an apple orchard.
“During investigation it transpired that conspiracy has been hatched by accused Captain Bhoopendra Singh, Tabish Nazir and Bilal Ahmed Lone to abduct and staged the encounter,” the J&K police said in the statement.
The police had filed a 300-page charge sheet against the three accused in a local court Saturday.
Accused booked for murder, conspiracy, abduction
The J&K Police said the youths’ bodies were stripped of their identities and the weapons were planted to designate them as “hardcore terrorists”. They added that the accused also did not follow Standard of Procedure in such cases.
“They planted illegally acquired weapons and material on their dead bodies after stripping them of their identities and tagged them as hardcore terrorists in possession of war-like stores and deliberately providing false information to colleagues/senior. As per SOPs Army informed the police for registration of FIR,” the statement read.
The police also highlighted that the FIR against the slain youths, where they were charged under the Unlawful Prevention Activities Act (UAPA) and Arms Act, have been dropped. Instead, the accused have now been booked under the Arms Act and the relevant Indian Penal Code sections for murder, conspiracy, abduction and giving out false information.
The investigation, carried out by a Special Investigation Team headed by Deputy Superintendent of Police Wajahat Hussain, recorded the statements of 49 witnesses, according to the release.
It added that the court has also issued an order asking Army authorities for suggestions on whether the accused captain should be tried in the criminal court or a court martial.
Meanwhile, an Army spokesperson Thursday said the process of summary evidence had been completed in the Shopian encounter of 18 July 2020, which was being examined by legal experts to ascertain if further action was needed in this case.
“Indian Army is committed to ethical conduct of operations. Further details will be shared in a manner so as not to prejudice the proceedings under Army Law,” the spokesperson said in the statement.
According to a press statement issued by J&K Police on 18 July, the Shopian “encounter” took place based on a “specific input by 62RR (Rashtriya Rifles) about the presence of terrorists in the village Amshipora area of District Shopian”.
The statement also specified that the police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) joined the encounter “later”, a detail that marked a slight departure in protocol. Statements about joint operations in the Valley do not generally specify the chronology of security forces’ participation
Back in August, photos of the three bodies of the youth were circulated on social media, leading to the families identifying them as their relatives. In the last week of September, their DNA samples were matched, confirming their identity.
On 18 September, the Army issued a statement saying that prima facie evidence showed the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) had been “exceeded”, and that directions had been passed to initiate disciplinary proceedings against erring officials.