DNA confirms identity of three labourers killed by Army in Shopian

Kashmir Fake encounter
Political parties in the Valley, meanwhile, hit out at what they said was murder “in cold blood” (Photo – Representative)

The DNA samples of the three labourers from Rajouri in J&K, who were killed in an encounter in Shopian by the Army on July 18 and labelled as “terrorists”, have matched those of their families, IGP (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar said Friday.

The confirmation comes days after the Army said that its inquiry into the killings in Amshipora village “prima facie” found that the soldiers involved had exceeded their powers under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), and that disciplinary action would be taken.

“We have received the (result of) DNA samples today. They are matching…Now, we will take further action, we will take forward the investigations,” IGP Kumar said.

Following the confirmation, the families of the slain labourers — Abrar Ahmed (25), Imtiyaz Ahmed (20) and Mohammed Ibrar (16) — demanded that the victims’ bodies be exhumed and handed over to them, and those behind the killings be arrested.

Political parties in the Valley, meanwhile, hit out at what they said was murder “in cold blood” and demanded to know what the “incriminating evidence” was that the Army had said led them to identify the labourers as “terrorists”.

“What wrong have we done to anybody that they killed our innocent children?” asked Abrar Ahmed’s father, Mohammad Yusuf (49), who came to know of the DNA results from an SMS sent by a relative.

Hailing from Kotranka tehsil, Yusuf’s son was among three cousins who had gone to Kashmir from Tarkasi village on July 16 in search of work as labourers. The other two were residents of Dharsakri village nearby.

“We have only two demands: hand over the bodies of our children for their last rites and arrest those behind these killings. Once they get arrested, I want to visit them and ask again: what wrong have we done to them that they killed our innocent children?’’

“We are poor people. We cannot kill or cause any harm to those behind the killing of our children except ask the government to hang them,’’ he said.

According to Yusuf, Abrar had returned after working in Kuwait for three years, and started constructing his house — it is still incomplete. “He could not go back due to the Covid restrictions and decided to go to Kashmir along with his cousins for work,” he said.

Yusuf said his eldest son, Mohammad Javed, works in Saudi Arabia and the youngest, Mohammad Shakur, is a school dropout. “I worry for the wife Abrar left behind and their one-year-old child,” he said.

According to Yusuf, Abrar’s cousins, Imtiyaz and Ibrar, had recently cleared their Class 12 and Class 11 exams, respectively. “They were pursuing their studies with much difficulty. Their families had pinned all their hopes on them as Imtiyaz’s eldest brother is a shepherd and Ibrar’s youngest brother is just eight years old,” Yusuf said.

Following Friday’s confirmation, former J&K Minister and Peoples Conference president Sajad Lone said “there is no hope of justice” for the families, and that his “thoughts (were) with the 3 men murdered in cold blood”.

“Had this been the first time, one could have hoped it won’t happen again. It is not the first time and not the last time. There is no deterrence and in Delhi there is a lot of tolerance for HR violations in Kashmir. Justice will be ornamental unless it is divine,” Lone tweeted.

Referring to the Army’s statement on July 18 that “incriminating material, including arms and ammunition, were recovered from the site of encounter”, former J&K Chief Minister and NC leader Omar Abdullah asked: “So who planted this “incriminating material”?”

“These young men were buried somewhere in north Kashmir. It is imperative that the bodies be exhumed and handed over to the families immediately so that a proper burial can take place near their homes in Rajouri district,” Omar tweeted.

The Army had ordered a Court of Inquiry last month after the three families came forward to say the youths were cousins who had gone to Kashmir for work and not been in touch since July 17 night. But it has not responded to claims by the victims’ families and political parties that the encounter was “stage-managed”.

“Their (the three labourers) involvement with terrorism or related activities is under investigation by the police,” the Army had said. The J&K police, however, had distanced itself from the encounter and said that the “input” for the operation had come from the Army.