It was on July 18, 2020 that news came of three 'terrorists' were killed in an encounter with security forces in Shopian, Jammu-Kashmir. And it was only when the pictures of the killed circulated through social media that the family of the 'terrorists' came to know about it. The three killed were natives of Rajouri of Kashmir named Abrar Ahmed (25), Imtiyaz Ahmed (20) and Mohammed Ibrar (16). Local residents and the families of the three said that they were not terrorists and had gone to Shopian in search of jobs. The death of the youths triggered protests all over Kashmir. Following strong protests, Kashmir police decided to conduct a probe into the incident and appointed a Special InvestigationTeam (SIT) for it. And only five days ago did the report of the special team came out. As per the charge sheet of the case, an officer in the army camp in Shopian, Captain Bhupinder Singh kidnapped the three labourers from a rented room at night, took them to a deserted place and shot them to death. Bhupinder was assisted in the operation by his close friends Tabish Nazir Malik and Bilal Ahmed Lone, both of whom are under arrest now. And because the law that confers special rights on the military, AFSPA -Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act - is in force in the state, it will take time for any action to be taken against Bhupinder Singh. It may also be that it will end up with no action at all.
Now four days after the world came to get the real picture of the Shopian fake encounter as official document, on December 30 three people were killed in Lawaypora, a suburb of Srinagar in Kashmir. As usual, the version in news reports from the army is that they killed three terrorists named Zubair Ahmed, Aijaz Maqbool and Ather Mushtaq. Two of the killed were students and the third a labourer. They families of the students came out claiming that the army killed their sons who had gone for an exam in the university; that was followed by protests. As it happened in the earlier Shopian 'encounter', the military dismisses the families' claim. The question raised is how the youths, who were destined for the university, arrived at the spot – the same question had been raised during the Shopian 'encounter'. It is ridiculous to first catch and drag innocent labourers and students to a convenient spot, shoot them to death, and then raise the question how they got to that place. What is urgently needed is to order a transparent and comprehensive probe into the Lawaypora 'encounter'. But as of now there are no indications of that happening any time soon.
Two days ago, an organisation, Legal Forum for Oppressed Voices in Kashmir released statistics of killings and attacks in Kashmir during 2020. According to the organisation, during the year, a total of 474 people were killed; it also alleges that out of this 65 were civilians. The report also states that 232 individuals, who were extremists or suspected so were also killed. However, the army's number of killed in 2020 is 225. Out of this who were the extremists and who the civilians, is a matter yet to be clarified. It is also to be known to which category the youths of Shopian will fall.
Jammu-Kashmir is a state which the Modi government broke into two and put under central rule in one day claiming that they will bring normalcy in the region. The government's claim was that under direct rule by the Centre, it would establish peace and achieve development in the Valley. That claim has got nowhere, as reports from Kashmir consistently show. Kashmir is not a mere strip of land, but it also comprises the human beings living there. Then, without taking them into confidence and by behaving with them as if they were enemies, how will the regime bring peace and progress? What is the ruling establishment going to gain by fake encounters like the one of Shopian? What will extremists lose when some one kidnaps job-seeking youths and shoots them to death? News emerging each day convince us that without taking Kashmiris into confidence, and without their participation, there is no way to restore normalcy in Kashmir. But do the central government, and the party that leads it, have the sincerity to make such an endeavour?