DNA tests of missing laborers’ families to confirm identity of bodies in Shopian “gunfight”

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A day after Rajouri-based families claimed that their missing relatives were killed in an alleged fake gunfight in south Kashmir’s Shopian on 18 July, they have demanded the bodies and an independent judicial probe from the police officials.

On Tuesday, 11 August, the families, along with a social activist and a sarpanch, met Director-General of Police, Senior Superintendent of Police, Rajouri, Chandan Kohli, and Additional Superintendent of Police, Liyaqat Ali.

On 10 August, at least three family members had identified the trio from a photograph — allegedly of the men killed in the Shopian gunfight in July by the army’s 62 Rashtriya Rifles and passed off as militants — as Imtiaz Ahmad, 26, Ibrar Ahmed, 18, and Ibrar Ahmed, 25, to the Kashmir Walla.

In a statement issued after the gunfight, on 18 July, the police had claimed “killed terrorists” were buried in Baramulla, north Kashmir, “after conducting medico-legal formalities including the collection of their DNA,” as their identities remained ascertained.

Guftar Ahmed, a social activist, who met the police officials with the family, told The Kashmir Walla, “The families have demanded that the bodies should be returned because they have identified [from the alleged photograph] that they are our children.”  

He added: “[Families] have also asked for an independent judicial probe. In a fair probe, it will be clear who killed them.”

For the verification, Mr. Ahmed said that the police officials have assured them of a DNA test “in a day or two” to confirm the identity of those persons killed by the army. “They have not given specific dates, but assured that it will be done,” he said.

Speaking to the Kashmir Walla, Additional Superintendent of Police, Mr. Ali, said: “The family is demanding a DNA test and the verification [of the bodies] should be done. We are looking at it — its procedure. They are demanding for identification.” He confirmed that the family today identified the trio as their relatives and laborers from Kotranka village of Rajouri.

Adding that, as per procedure, “DNA samples are taken of every unidentified body”, he stated that the samples of the family members will be cross checked with those killed in the gunfight in Shopian.

Another senior police official, who is monitoring the case closely, told the Kashmir Walla, requesting anonymity: “The families told the police, ‘Our boys are not involved in the militancy cases and if they had been involved we would not regret [the killing]. But they were not involved. So this should be probed.’”

However, the senior police official added that the police did not cross-check the alleged photograph with the family during the meeting. “[The families] said that they have seen the photograph on the media and identified their children. It is obvious that if the parents are saying they are our children, it does not feel good to show them the photograph,” he said.

On the allegations, 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.”

The families are alleging that their missing relatives were working as laborers and had left Rajouri for Shopian on 16 July. The father of 25-year-old Ibrar Ahmed, Mohammad Yousuf, told The Kashmir Walla, that his son “with [Imtiyaz and 18-year-old Ibrar] and last called on the evening of 17 July to tell us he reached the place.” Since then, he had not contacted the family, he claimed.

On 10 August, Mr. Ali said he received the missing complaint filed by the kins. 

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.

Massive protests had erupted in Kashmir Valley after the killings. In a couple of months, it snowballed into an uprising and nearly 120 civilians were killed by the government forces in street protests.

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