The Army has found “prima facie" evidence its troops “exceeded" powers under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) during an encounter in Kashmir’s Shopian district in which three men were killed in July and has initiated disciplinary proceedings, officials said on Friday. The families of the three men from Rajouri who worked as labourers in Shopian had also filed a police complaint.
Army Chief General MM Naravane said the investigations will be conducted with “the utmost fairness and will be taken to their logical conclusion", news agency ANI reported. “The Indian Army has zero tolerance for violation of established guidelines while operating in disturbed areas," he said.
On July 18, the Army claimed three militants were killed in Amshipura village in the higher reaches of south Kashmir’s Shopian district. Committed to ethical conduct during anti-militancy operations, the Army initiated an inquiry after social media reports indicated the three men were from Rajouri district in Jammu and had gone missing at Amshipura, said Colonel Rajesh Kalia, the defence spokesperson in Srinagar. The probe was completed in a record four weeks.
In a brief statement, the Army said the Shopian operation contravened the dos and don’ts of the Chief of Army Staff approved by the Supreme Court.
“The inquiry has brought out certain prima facie evidence indicating that during the operation, powers vested under the AFSPA 1990 were exceeded and the Do’s and Don’ts of Chief of Army Staff as approved by the Supreme Court have been contravened. “Consequently, the competent disciplinary authority has directed to initiate disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act against those found prima-facie answerable," the statement said.
It is not immediately clear how many Army men are being proceeded against. The evidence collected indicates the three unidentified terrorists killed in Amshipura were Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohammed Ibrar who hailed from Rajouri. Their DNA report is awaited. “Their involvement with terrorism or related activities is under investigation by the police," the statement said.
General Officer Commanding Lt Gen BS Raju had taken note of social media reports and initiated a probe into the incident. A general advertisement was published in local newspapers, asking people with any “credible information" about the case to step forward and share it with the court of inquiry instituted by the Army.
Relatives of the three youths, belonging to Dhar Sakri village in Kotranka of Rajouri area in Poonch, had lodged a written missing persons report in the local police station after they lost contact with them on July 17. The three were working as labourers in apple and walnut orchards in Amshipura.
The relatives said in their complaint they had last spoken to the three on July 16 when they informed their families they had got a room in Amshipura. The room was the site of the encounter two days later, the complaint stated. The police is also probing the three youths’ call details and why they jumped out of a window when an operation was launched at their rented accommodation, a police official said. He added that their presence in around strategic places in Shopian since their arrival was also being investigated.
According to the rules, a Summary of Evidence will now be initiated against the erring Army personnel after which Court Martial proceedings will begin. The Army has been maintaining high standards of transparency and punishing officials whenever rules are violated, officials said.
(With inputs from agencies)