Tuesday Aug 11, 2020
SRINAGAR: The Indian army said Monday it is investigating the killing of three Kashmiris last month after their pictures surfaced on social media and a family member of one of the victims denied the Indian army's accusations that they were Pakistanis or were involved in militancy.
Naseeb Khatana said his three cousins — Abrar Khatana, 18, Imtiyaz Ahmed, 21 and Abrar Ahmad, 25 — left their home in the southern district of Rajouri on July 16 to look for work in the occupied Kashmir valley, but the family lost contact with them a day later.
The Indian army said on July 18 that its soldiers had killed three persons it branded as "terrorists" in the south Kashmir village of Amshipora. The bodies, it said, had been buried in a remote border area.
"Today we identified their bodies from photographs that appeared in social media," Naseeb Khatana, the slain youths' relative, told AFP from his home.
"We want justice and their bodies returned to us," Khatana said. The family also demanded DNA testing of the victims.
Indian army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said in a brief statement that "the army is investigating the matter."
"The three terrorists killed during the encounter have not been identified and were buried based on established protocols," the statement added.
Following the killings in July, Brigadier Ajay Kotach said the military operation was launched on a tip.
Police, who would normally have a presence at such operations, said they did not take part in this one and had launched their own inquiry, a senior police official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The incident has generated social media outrage and even pro-India groups have demanded an independent probe into the deaths.
The incident raised memories of past incidents in the restive territory where a three-decade-old separatist movement has left tens of thousands martyred, mainly civilians.
In 2010, three army officers were found guilty of the deaths of three labourers who had been branded as 'Pakistani infiltrators'.
The killings sparked months of protests that left more than 100 civilians dead.
In 2000, the army claimed to have killed five "terrorists" responsible for the massacre of 35 Sikhs. An investigation found the five were locals killed by Indian soldiers in a staged gun battle.