‘Protector or Predator: Behind the Encounter of Innocent Civilians in Jammu Kashmir’.
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Picture Credits: The Guardian
On Sunday, Indian police had noted that the high-ranking army officer had two associates place the weapons on the bodies of the three workers murdered in Kashmir, as to make it appear as if they were armed fighters killed in a planned shooting attempt. The deaths of these young men during July, catapulted in uproar in the Indian-monitored Kashmir. With the army captain in charge of the Indian territories of Jammu and Kashmir charged with the kidnapping, murder and criminal conspiracy making regarding the deaths of three Kashmiri men.
With a statement released on Sunday, police pressed charges against Captain Bhoopendra Singh and his two accomplices, declaring that the two had staged the murders to resemble an actual military encounter as well as having ‘planted illegally acquired weapons and material on their dead bodies after stripping them of their identities and tagged them as hardcore terrorists.’ This surprisingly contrasted the Indian Army’s initial decision made in September, as the army initially claimed that the civilians were killed during an alleged shootout in the village of Amshipora in southern Kashmir with three sets of weapons placed on them. However, in a rare turn of events, the Indian military acknowledged that its soldiers had crossed the line of authority regarding the code of conduct within the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which provides soldiers impunity in the event of killed civilians. The emergency law had been administered in Kashmir during 1990 during the event of an armed rebellion against Indian Diplomacy in the region, with Indian Soldiers being protected from being trialled in a public court unless permitted by the New Delhi governing body.
The victims comprised of three laborers, Imtiyaz Ahmad, Abrar Ahmad Khan and Abrar Ahmad Yousuf, who vacated their homes in search of employment, killed in a speculated army operation in July. The regions police had recovered the bodies to only find that their bodies possessed pistols and live cartridges, with special forces identifying that the victims were set up to be ‘militants’. For numerous years, the Himalayan state had been a longstanding battleground between India and Pakistan, with three years of full-scale conflict over the prized land. Controversially in 2019, the Indian Government had removed Kashmir’s autonomy and instead placed it in full control of the central government with a series of crackdowns being placed on its civilians. Critically, the officer guilty of the charges was a member of the 62 Rashtriya Rifles, a specialised division of the Indian army set to counter insurgency operations in Kashmir, who will possibly face trial. With no such appeal occurring in the last three decades despite numerous pleas to fully investigate security forces. While local heads of court are processing as to how the first trial of its kind should take place, with members deciding on whether the offenders should be tried in a civilian or receive military court martialling.
Concerningly, Indian military personnel deployed in Kashmir are often rewarded for killing opposing militants, with either medals or promotions and financial packages of a reasonable value of 1.25m rupees (£12,600). An event such as this that acts against human rights watch and justice has occurred previously in 2010 where Indian army officers had killed three civilians and claimed they were battling insurgents which lead to massive protests outbreaking and the further deaths of more than 100 civilians by the police and paramilitary operations. The event has sparked a rare investigation by the Indian Army who hold 500,000 troops in Kashmir.
By Richardt Schoonraad