Indian police on Sunday accused an army officer and two associates of planting weapons on the bodies of three labourers killed in Kashmir to make it look as though they were armed fighters in a staged gun battle.
Captain Bhoopendra Singh has been charged with murder, conspiracy and other offences, the police statement said. He is now in military detention. The two civilian “sources”, who were with him at the time, are in police custody.
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.
In September, the Indian army admitted its soldiers had exceeded powers under the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which accords impunity to soldiers in the killing of civilians.
The army had initially claimed that the three men were killed in a gun battle in the village of Amshipora in south Kashmir and that three weapons were found on them. The bodies were hurriedly buried in a remote border area.
The men’s families in the remote mountainous area of Rajouri identified them one month later from photographs that circulated on social media. The families said that the three youths had travelled all the way from their homes to Shopian to find work in an apple orchard.
Javaid Ahmad, 25, whose younger brother, Ibrar Ahmad, was among the three people killed in the gun battle, said that the family has “lost peace and sleep in search of justice.”
In 2010, a police investigation revealed the army killed three civilians in a staged gun battle at Machil area near the Line of Control in Kupwara district. The three civilians were lured to Machil and killed there before being labelled “militants” by the army.
“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.
Tens of thousands of people, mainly civilians, have died in the decades-old conflict.