On June 19, 2022, Jammu and Kashmir Police announced that an encounter between Indian Armed forces and freedom fighters has erupted in Lolab area of North Kashmir.
Soon, as events and information unfolded, it was a textbook style of earlier operations. It was not the first time they had a script with so many loopholes and glaring questions that would remain unanswered.
As the 19 June gunfight raged, police announced that the “hideout was disclosed by the arrested militant Showket Ahmed Sheikh.” He was from Shopian. During the search of hideout, hiding Freedom fighters, police said, fired upon joint search parties and our team also retaliated, in which one fighter got killed. Then they said the arrested Freedom Fighter also got trapped.
After Indian police and Army’s 28 RR ended the operation, the police stated that 4 Freedom Fighters, including Showkat Ahmad Sheikh got killed in the gunfight.
The encounter had all the footprints of other military operations.
On November 14, 2021, four people were killed during an encounter in a commercial establishment in Hyderpora. Police noted that one of the Killed was a ‘foreign’ militant Bilal Bhai alias Maaz while the civilians were dubbed as accomplices of the militant. Police refused to hand over their bodies and buried them a hundreds of kilometers away from their homes. However later due to public pressure, the police handed over the dead bodies of two civilians, Altaf Bhat and Dr Mudasir to the families for a hush-hush burial. The body of Amir was not handed over despite a High Court order, which the state challenged before the Division Bench of the J&K High Court on June 4.
In this case, the police also did an SIT inquiry headed by DIG Sujith K. Singh, to probe the shootout, where the JK Police acting as judge, jury and witness and declared itself innocent on Dec 28, 2021.
On October 22, 2021, Zia Mustafa, under trial Prisoner from Rawalakote serving retention in Jammu Jail was taken to Mendhar in Jammu division of the Jammu and Kashmir.
J&K police said in a statement that “Zia Mustafa, a Pakistani LeT terrorist, was taken to Bhata Durian for identification of terrorist hideout during the ongoing operation…” It was October 24.
According to the police, during the search “terrorists again opened fire on the joint team of police and army personnel in which two policemen and an army jawan sustained injuries. Mustafa also sustained injuries and could not be extracted from the site due to heavy fire”.
His body was retrieved later.
On June 29, 2021 same police claimed to have killed Naveed Abrar in an encounter on Srinagar outskirts. Giving details of the incident, that day a police spokesman said Abrar, who was involved in many killings, was arrested during checking of vehicles at Parimpora and was “put on sustained interrogation.”
He then disclosed the location where he had kept his AK-47 rifle in Maloora locality, the spokesman said. Abrar was then taken to the house to recover AK 47 rifle.
While entering the house of one of his associates, hiding fighters inside fired at the Indian forces, triggering off a gun battle.
At the end two freedom fighters including Abrar was found dead at the site.
Such operations undertaken by Indian forces under suspicious circumstances to bump off people raises many questions. The textbook style of the Indian forces to bump off people and youngsters continues with impunity. With no legal recourse, this only showcases how low the Indian Armed forces have come down in the valley.
Interestingly, in Lolab gunfight Showket was under forces custody since the first week of June, which was confirmed by senior superintendent of Police (SSP) Shopian Tanushree IPS and if he had not given Indian forces anything, why would he disclose his comrades’ hideout afterward.
The Indian military and para-military forces have made encounters a career advancement superhighway where a person recruited as an ad-hoc mercenary [SPO] can aspire to progress fast into a gazetted position besides cash rewards and the power that comes with ‘encounter specialization.’
In another instance of a similar gruesome and cowardly act, three young laborers from Rajouri Abrar Ahmed, 25, Imtiyaz Ahmed, 20, and Mohammed Ibrar, 16, were killed in the staged encounter by the army in Amshipura of Shopian in south Kashmir in July 2020.
These young souls had crossed the Pirpanchal mountain to look for work in Shopian during covid-lockdown.
After the alleged encounter, army claimed to have recovered arms and ammunition and incriminating material from the slain militants. However lately it came forth that army captain Bhoopendra Singh along with two locals had hatched the conspiracy to abduct the civilians and stage a fake encounter to earn cash rewards and bravery medals.
Three months after the coldblooded murder of these three laborers, their bodies were exhumed and handed over to their families for proper burial after their DNA profiling established their identity.
These are the cases where the state conduct is too gross to be covered fully. There are other cases that never come to light where police killed an untrained teenage militant in a ‘chance encounter’ within days of his going missing. While the truth is that he is being arrested and tortured before shooting him dead in the ‘chance encounter’.