This must have been the families’ biggest nightmare, and at the same time, a tragic closure. According to a report in the Indian Express, the Jammu and Kashmir government has exhumed the bodies of the three Rajouri labourers who were killed in July, reportedly in an “encounter” in South Kashmir’s Shopian area and handed the bodies to their families. The news report added that the bodies were exhumed at night.
It had taken months for the Army to admit that the three men killed in the Shopian “encounter” were indeed missing labourers from Rajouri. The news of the dead men’s identity was confirmed only on September 18, and weeks later, the “bodies have been exhumed and handed over to the families,” Guftar Choudhary, a social activist who was with the labourers families for the exhumation, told The Indian Express adding that this was done at “around 5.30 AM.” Hours earlier, the J-K Director General of Police (Dilbagh Singh) had said the bodies would be exhumed soon, reported the IE.
The three labourers from Rajouri have been identified as Imtiyaz Ahmad (20), Abrar Ahmad (25) and Mohammad Ibrar (16). They were killed in South Kashmir Amshipora village in Shopian on July 18, in what turned out to be a “fake encounter” as reported widely. The media reported that both the Army and the police had then said these three men killed were “militants” and the bodies then buried “discreetly in a graveyard in North Kashmir’s Baramulla”.
However, on August 10, photos of the bodies were shared on social media, according to IE, the labourers families had also filed a missing report a day before those photos went public. The labourers’ families recognised their missing sons, and soon a probe was ordered by the Army. The IE reported that on September 21, the Army’s court of inquiry confirmed that the three men were actually Rajouri labourers.
The three families had lodged a missing persons’ complaint about them at the Peeri Police Post in Rajouri’s Kotranka tehsil. One of the victims was reportedly 16 years old. The three had gone to Kashmir for work and not been in touch with their families July 17 night, the IE had then reported. The families thought the young men were in quarantine as part of anti-Covid measures as they were from outside Rajouri. However, soon enough they heard of the killing of “unidentified militants.” They later told the IE that they eventually “recognised them from the photographs,” and demanded that “their bodies be returned to us and there should be a probe.”
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