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Shopian encounter is Manoj Sinha’s litmus test. Justice can act as bridge to Kashmir

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The only thing worse than the lack of a political strategy to win the hearts and minds of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is the violation of human rights by security forces. The Shopian encounter of 18 July is a case in point — the much-publicised killing of three ‘terrorists’ turned out to be an alleged cold-blooded murder of three labourers from Rajouri district.

That one of our best Rashtriya Rifles (RR) units — the 62 RR — was involved in the alleged fake encounter raises very disturbing questions about the approach of the security forces towards upholding human rights in the Valley. The conduct of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Police, which under a political government, would conduct an independent inquiry in similar suspicious cases, is also under the scanner. The military hierarchy, instead of acting as a watchdog for human rights, too, seems to have become complicit.

Also read: After 23 years in jail, freedom is a ‘different kind of prison’ for innocent Kashmiri man

In the wee hours of 18 July 2020, three ‘terrorists’ were killed in Amshipora village of Shopian district in J&K by a joint team of 62 RR, J&K Police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Much was made of this encounter and the Commander of the 12 Sector RR personally briefed the press and gave graphic details of the encounter. For long, Shopian has been the hub of terrorism in J&K and 62 RR has been at the forefront to tackle it. More than once the unit has received the honour of a Unit Citation from the Chief of the Army Staff and GOC-in-C, Northern Command, for its commendable counter-terrorist operations.

But three weeks later, the ‘surgical encounter’ fell apart when a missing persons FIR was lodged in Rajouri district. As per media reports, it was in fact a “fake encounter”. Three unemployed labourers who had come to Shopian from Rajouri for work had been allegedly killed in cold blood, in a virtual repeat of the Machil fake encounter of 2010. The Army was forced to order an inquiry and, on 18 September, curiously stated that during the encounter in Amshipora “powers vested under the AFSPA 1990 were exceeded”. Recording of summary of evidence in the case is underway, after which, a court martial of the perpetrators is likely to be held.

Also read: Bodies of Rajouri youth killed in........

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