Three families from Rajouri district have claimed that three persons that the army killed on 18 July in a gunfight in Shopian, south Kashmir — and buried them in Baramulla as unidentified militants — were their relatives and innocent laborers and they will “file a First Information Report (FIR) against the army.”

At least three family members have identified the trio as Imtiaz Ahmad, 26, Ibrar Ahmed, 18, and Ibrar Ahmed, 25, to the Kashmir Walla from a photograph, allegedly of the men killed in the Shopian gunfight in July.

A paternal cousin of 18-year-old Ibrar, Mohammad Saleem, 20, is adamant to file a FIR tomorrow morning. Referring to the photograph, he alleged: “The center one is my paternal cousin.”

“It is final ki unka ho gaya ye. Now the only thing remaining is to ask how did this happen?” he said. “Tomorrow morning, we’ll file an FIR against the army and then they will tell how this happened.”

The police have asked the families to come back tomorrow, on Tuesday morning, together, said Mr. Saleem. “[the police] said: ‘it will be finalized tomorrow morning [as] two more families [are coming] together tomorrow.’”

Mohammad Yousuf, a 49-year-old resident of Peeri hamlet in Rajouri’s Kandi village, said that he fell unconscious when he saw the photograph of a body. “Our boys were in those photos,” he said, adding that he identified his sister-in-law’s son, 18-year-old Ibrar Ahmad. 

And he was sure that his son, 25-year-old, also named Ibrar Ahmad, was killed too.

On 16 July, Mr. Yousuf said, his son left after Mr. Imitiyaz found him a job as a laborer in Shopian. “He left with [Imtiyaz and 18-year-old Ibrar] and last called on the evening of 17 July to tell us he reached the place,” said Mr. Yousuf. Since then, he has not contacted the family. 

Mr. Saleem, too, shocked after seeing the alleged photograph. On a phone call, describing the photograph, he said “the guy in the center is my uncle’s son, Ibrar.” “What you read on social media is totally right,” he said. “They are our guys. All three of them.”

Both, Mr. Saleem and Mr. Yousuf, have not told their families at home that the men “have been killed”. 

On the phone call, Mr. Yousuf walked out of the room, away from the family, he said, to talk about his son. “They were young children, who had gone for work,” he said, sobbing. He said that the police have asked him to meet the District Commissioner of Rajouri to get permission to travel to Shopian and “get it clear”. 

“If my son had done any wrongdoing, then koi baat nahi,” he said. “But he did not do anything. They have backstabbed us.”

On 10 August, the families filed a missing complaint in the Kotranka Police Station. The Station House Officer, Mustaj Ahmed, told the Kashmir Walla that he received the missing complaint today. “[They are] missing since 16 July 2020. [They had] went to Srinagar for working as a laborer as per the version of parents,” he said.

In 2010, the army had killed three civilians from Baramulla’s Nadihal area in the Machil sector near Line of Control. Five army personnel were tried and convicted by a court-martial; however, in 2017, the armed forces tribunal suspended life sentence awarded to them.

In Rajouri, where Mr. Yousuf is planning to travel to Shopian, Mr. Saleem is worried about the mother of 18-year-old Ibrar. “We are very poor people,” he said. “His parents are in very bad condition. His mother will die [if she comes to know].”

Adding that he resides “very near” to Ibrar’s home and they grew up together, he said that he cannot contact his family “as they live in a distant place that has no connectivity.”

“How does it feel when your brother dies?” he said, breaking down on the call. 

A senior police official in Rajouri, who is monitoring the case closely, told the Kashmir Walla on anonymity: “In a missing report, they do not need to file a separate FIR. They can file an FIR, they just need to give an application, but a missing case is treated as when the person is found.” 

Additional Superintendent of Police, Liyaqat Ali, told the Kashmir Walla: “The families reached out to our police station in Peeri today. We have contacted all the SHOs in the [Union Territory] if they know the whereabouts of these persons.” 

Referring to the allegations of the family, he added: “We have not heard anything about it. The family is claiming that the boys are missing from 16 July, but it has been 20 to 25 days but they didn’t approach the police before. First, we have to circulate photos. Right now, we are not investigating this angle,” he said, referring to the allegations that the trio was killed by the government forces in Shopian on 18 July. 

In the matter, the army has also issued a brief statement: “We have noted social media inputs linked to the operation at Shopian on 18 Jul 2020. The three Terrorists killed during the operation have not been identified and the bodies were buried based on established protocols. Army is investigating the matter.”

On 18 July, the official statement by the police claimed that the army 62 Rashtriya Rifle (RR) had launched an operation after “specific inputs about presence of terrorists in village Amshipora area of District Shopian.”

“During [the] search terrorists fired upon Army personnel and encounter started. Later on police and CRPF also joined,” the statement had stated. “During the encounter three unidentified terrorists were killed. Dead bodies of all the killed three terrorists were retrieved from the site of encounter. The identification and affiliation of the killed terrorists is being ascertained.”

The police further had claimed in the statement that “incriminating materials, including arms and ammunition were recovered from the site of encounter.”

It also stated that the dead bodies “of the killed terrorists have been sent to Baramulla for their last rites after conducting medico-legal formalities including collection of their DNA.” 

“In case any family claims the killed terrorists to be their kith or kin, they can come forward for their identification and participation in last rites at Baramulla,” it mentioned.

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