Army captain staged Shopian encounter for ₹20 lakh reward: Police

Captain Bhoopinder Singh is currently in the custody of the Army. Sources said he may face a court martial.

Jammu and Kashmir, militants, encounter, Shopian
The Army's court of inquiry, which was completed in September last year, found 'prima facie' evidence that the troops had "exceeded" the powers granted under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the Sophian incident. Representational photo: Twitter

The Army captain who was involved in the alleged fake encounter in Shopian in July last year in which three youths were killed, had hatched a conspiracy along with two civilians with the motive of “grabbing” a reward money of ₹20 lakh and also fired at the victims even before his men could lay a cordon of the area, according to a police charge sheet.

Captain Bhoopinder Singh is currently in the custody of the Army. Sources said he may face a court martial.

The case relates to the July 18, 2020, encounter at Amshipura in Shopian in which three youths of Rajouri district — Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohammed Ibrar — were killed and branded as terrorists. The charge sheet submitted before the chief judicial magistrate of Shopian district also details the role of the two civilians — Tabish Nazir and Bilal Ahmed Lone — in the case.

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Lone has since turned an approver and recorded his confession statement before a magistrate. After reports emerged on social media that the three youths were not associated with terrorism, the Army had ordered a court of inquiry which completed its probe in September last year.

It had found ‘prima facie’ evidence that the troops had “exceeded” the powers granted under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Following this, the Army had initiated disciplinary proceedings.

The identities of the three youths killed in Amshipura were confirmed through a DNA test and the bodies were handed over to their families in Baramulla in October.

General officer in Command of the strategically-located XV Corps, Lt Gen B S Raju had said earlier the Summary of Evidence had been completed and the Army will take the next course of action as per law.

Officials in know of the development said the Captain may face a court martial for violating the powers vested under the AFSPA 1990 and for not following the dos and don’ts of the Chief of Army Staff as approved by the Supreme Court.

The charge sheet submitted by the Special Investigation Team of the Jammu and Kashmir police has listed 75 witnesses in support of its findings and has also provided technical evidence, including call data records of the accused persons involved in the case. The charge sheet also has the statements of four army personnel — Subedar Garu Ram, Lance Naik Ravi Kumar, Sepoys Ashwini Kumar and Yougesh — who were part of Capt Singh’s team at the time of the incident.

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They said that all of them along with the two civilians had left the Army camp together as there were reliable inputs that a contact with terrorists was possible, according to the chargesheet. On reaching the spot, all the four were asked to cordon off from different directions. “As they were approaching the spot on foot after disembarking from the vehicle, they heard a few bursts of live ammunition even before they had laid the cordon,” said the chargesheet, quoting the statements of the four. Later Capt Singh told them that he had to fire as the hiding militants were trying to escape. “By staging the encounter,” the chargesheet said, Capt Singh and two other civilians also “purposefully destroyed evidence of real crime that they have committed and also have been purposefully projecting false information as part of a criminal conspiracy hatched between them with motive to grab prize money of ₹20 lakh”.

It said the accused captain of 62 Rashtriya Rifles “furnished false information to mislead the senior officer and for getting” an FIR lodged to “tailor fit his motive for grabbing prize money in furtherance of criminal conspiracy”.

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