Letter by Irfan Malik (NY) regarding recent fake encounters by the Indian Army in Kashmir

January 17, 2021

The Honorable Ambassador Mr. Taranjit Singh Sandhu

Ambassador of India to the United States

Washington DC

and

Mr. Randhir Jaiswal

Consul General of India- New York

3 East 64th Street

New York, NY 10065

Ref:        Recent murder of 3 innocent civilians in a “staged encounter” at Amshipora, Shopian by the members of RR 62 regiment of the Indian Army on July 18, 2020 lead by Captain Bhoopendra Singh.

Ambassador Sandhu and Consul General Jaiswal;

I am writing to follow-up on the subject issue in which three civilians, one allegedly a minor, killed in a premeditated encounter determined as “staged” by the concerned investigating authorities, by the members of RR 62 regiment, Rashtriya Rifles of the Indian Army. These young boys identified as Mr. Mohd Imtiyaz (18), Mr. Mohd Abrar (16), and Mr. Abrar Ahmed (25) were allegedly lured day before the encounter by the Indian security forces from Rajouri district under the garb of providing seasonal employment and then murdered in a “fake encounter” at Amshipora in Shopian district lead by Captain Bhoopendra Singh alias Major Basheer Khan of RR 62 regiment. The charge sheet alleged that the Captain Singh conspired with two civilians to grab reward money of Rs. 20 lacks ($26,666) in this encounter[i]. The post-mortem report published in the local media provides chilling details of the injuries sustained by each of these three innocent civilians which caused their death in a “fake encounter.”[ii]

The ruthless character of Rashtriya Rifles of the Indian Army is often on public display on the streets of Kashmir and has been a source of many reports documenting gross human rights violations in Kashmir. The lack of response and accountability by the international institutions/community to the gross human rights violations in the region have further emboldened the members of the Indian Army and now even 16-year-old Kashmiri boys have become their legitimate targets.

Victim #1: 

Mohd Imtiyaz Dob: Feb 01, 2002 (age as of date of encounter: 18 years 5 months and 17 days)

S/o Mr. Sabar Hussain and Mrs. Shameem Akhtar

R/o Darsakri, Koteranaka, Rajouri

Jammu and Kashmir 185132

Aadhar number: 7347 0286 8641

Cousin of victims 2 and 3, grade 12th pass, his family comprised of two brothers, two sisters, and his parents. Mohd Imtiyaz was the 2nd oldest son, and the 3rd oldest among the siblings. One of the two older sisters is married. He wanted to save money for his college education. He has been a regular seasonal worker in Shopian for the past 2-3 years during the apple season when there is great demand for seasonal labor.

Victim #2: MINOR

Mohd Abrar, Dob: Feb 25, 2004 (age as of date of encounter: 16 years 4 months and 23 days)

S/o Mr. Bhaga Khan Sakri (father working in Saudi Arabia) and Mrs. Sifat Jan

R/o DharSakri, PP. Peeri, Kotranka

Rajouri, Jammu & Kashmir 185132

Mohd Abrar is the brother-in-law of victim #3. He was about to enroll in grade 12 and wanted to pursue a prearranged seasonal job to support his educational expenses. The family comprised of two brothers, two sisters and parents, with father working in Saudi Arabia. Mohd. Abrar was the 2nd oldest among the siblings. His oldest sister is married to victim # 3. In the absence of his father, victim #2 had assumed the role of head of his household, despite his young age. He wanted to contribute financially to his family and save some money for his education, so he travelled to Shopian to pursue a prearranged seasonal work in an apple orchard and support the family financially during COVID. This tragedy hit them most. This family lost both their son and son-in-law (victim #3) in this staged encounter.

Victim #3:

Abrar Ahmed, Dob: Aug 25, 1994 (age as of date of encounter: 25 years 10 months and 24 days)

S/o Mr. Mohd Yousaf and Mrs. Malika Khatoon

R/o Kotranka, Rajouri 185132

Aadhar number: 5071 6731 2679

Abrar’s family comprised of two brother, three sisters, his parents and they lived in a joint family. He was married and the couple had their first baby boy, 15 months old. He worked in Kuwait for the past roughly 3 ½ years and was scheduled to return to Kuwait but his departure was delayed due to COVID pandemic. He was earning Rs, 90,000/month from his job, working in a Korean company in Kuwait as a certified rigger. Abrar Ahmed got married in 2017, his wife is age 21 and appeared in her 10th grade exam in 2016.

Victim #1’s father, and mothers of Victim #2’s and Victim #3’s are siblings.

Victim #1 and #2 families live 10 minutes walking distance of each other, and victim #3 family lives roughly 10 kms away from them.

As per family, on July 17th, victim #2 and #3, started early morning and walked through jungles and steep slopes with a small bag, slung across the shoulder, containing clothes and other belongings to reach Shopian from their hometown in Rajouri, excited to pursue a prearranged seasonal job opportunity. Victim #2’s mother prepared and packed meals for them to carry and eat on their way. They trekked 70 kilometers to reach Shopian to meet up with victim #1, who had already arrived two weeks earlier on July 2, 2020. The young boys were promised contract seasonal jobs working at an orchard which would fetch each up to Rs 1,000 – Rs. 1,500/day. Along the way they took breath taking pictures and recorded videos which they promised to share with the family once they settled down at the rented accommodation. Upon reaching Shopian around 4:30 PM that day, as per the surviving family, they made a video call from victim #1’s phone to their families in Rajouri to inform them that they had reached safely, that they had checked into the rented accommodation and were going out to purchase household items and groceries. Around 7:30 victim #1 called his family to confirm that they had done their grocery shopping. Between 8:00 and 8:15 PM victim #2 spoke briefly to his sister on the phone and informed that they would call again around 10 PM once they settled down. That call never came and their families initially thought that the boys were quarantined for 21 days due to COVID restrictions by the local civil administration since they travelled from another district. That same evening all three were allegedly abducted by the team lead by Captain Bhoopendra Singh and became victims of enforced disappearance by the Indian Army, the same gang who had lured them for a pre-arranged seasonal job. The family allege that their children were killed in cold blood for money, medals and out-of-turn promotions by personnel of the Army.[iii]

The next morning, on July 18, 2020, the Indian Army claimed they were foreign “hardcore terrorists” who had been killed in an encounter with security forces after they opened fire on a security team during a cordon and search operation.[iv] The charge sheet, according to the news agency, has 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 and were asked to cordon off the area from different directions.

The army initially claimed they recovered “arms and ammunition and IED material” from the foreign terrorists at the alleged encounter site. The Police statement said: “On 18-07-2020, an information was received by Police Station Heerpora that three unidentified terrorists were killed in an operation at village Amshipora by 62RR and 02 pistols with 02 magazines and 04 empty Pistol cartridges, 15 Live cartridges & 15 empty cartridges of AK series Weapon and other objectionable items were recovered from the encounter site. Consequent upon the information, a case FIR No. 42/2020 U/S 307 IPC, 7/27 Arms Act, 16 ULA(P) Act was registered in P/S Heerpora and investigation was set into motion”.[v]

During the press conference[vi] subsequent to the Amshipora encounter, 2 Sector Commander, Brigadier Ajay Kotach stated, “We are hopeful that there will be low recruitment of youths in terrorism and movement of Pakistani terrorists will be under control and we will neutralise them soon.” Brigadier Ajay Kotach added, “We got information about the presence of four to five terrorists in the village. At 0245 hours on July 18, while the cordon party was in the process of laying the cordon, they came under heavy fire from the fringes of the cordon and after 5 minutes they came under fire from the centre of the cordon.” The Brigadier further added, “The cordon party was redeployed and additional troops rushed to the spot to strengthen the cordon. By 0430 hours, the police and CRPF had reached the operational site.”

“At 0530 hours, after there was visibility, a search party was moved into the target house which was a newly constructed single house. While the search party moved in, they came under fire and in the ensuing action, three terrorists were neutralized,” Brigadier Ajay Kotach said. He further stated, “that the dead bodies with arms and ammunition along with IED material were handed over to the police as per the standard operating procedures.”

It has now been revealed in the charge sheet that these young boys were killed even before the alleged encounter started, their bodies stripped of their id’s and illegal weapons placed on them to justify the “encounter”, several hours later, contrary to the false and misleading statements made by a senior member of the Indian Army, Brigadier Ajay Kotach, in a press conference on July 19, 2020 surrounding this encounter. The investigation has revealed that they were abducted by Capt. Singh and his accomplices in crime the night before the staged encounter.

““There are inputs that terrorists would try their best to target the yatra, but we have got our systems and resources in place to ensure that it goes on unhindered and peacefully,” Brigadier Vivek Singh Thakur, Commander, Two Sector, said in a press conference in south Kashmir. The officer added that “systems and resources” were in place to ensure that the annual pilgrimage goes on unhindered.

According to a report, security forces have inputs about terrorists planning to carry out an attack on Amarnath Yatra.”[vii]

The news report claimed that 48 militants have been killed in South Kashmir in the past month of June.

The murder of these young boys portrayed as foreign “hardcore terrorists” in an encounter coincided with the visit of the Indian defense minister, Mr. Raj Nath Singh, to the Amarnath Yatra site in Kashmir on July 18, 2020, the news flashed on Indian TV, “Amid terror threats, Rajnath Singh visits Amarnath temple.” [viii]

Since Captain Bhoopendra Singh and his team’s wrongdoing have been exposed during the investigation into the “fake encounter”, does the Govt of India (GoI) have any intentions to extend investigations into all other encounters in the area, at least in those in which the exposed and disgraced Captain Bhoopendra Singh of the Indian Army and his team participated to access the damage he has done?

The media reported on or about Oct 8, 2020 about the visit of Lt. Governor Mr. Manoj Sinha to the families of victims to offer condolences and offered the family of each victim killed in this staged encounter a check in the amount Rs 500,000 ($6,666.00) as compensation. It is utterly shocking to learn that the surviving families of the victims of this staged encounter would be paid such a meagre amount to compensate for the criminal acts of the Indian Army which resulted in the death of innocent young boys.

May I remind you that an Indian citizen, Mr. Sarabjit Singh, was convicted of terrorism and spying by Pakistani court. Mr. Singh was arrested in Pakistan in 1991, tried, convicted and sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of Pakistan for a series of bomb attacks in Lahore and Faisalabad that killed 14 bystanders in 1990. Born around 1963, Mr. Singh died of a heart attack on May 2, 2013 at age 49 after being attacked by fellow inmates during his incarceration in a high security Pakistani prison. When Mr. Singh’s dead body was returned to his family in India, “The Punjab government had given Rs 1 crore to the family of Sarabjit Singh and jobs for his both daughters. The Delhi government gives Rs 1 crore to a martyr’s family. The Haryana government gives Rs 50 lakh” as per news report.[ix] The compensation offered to Mr. Singh’s family was close to half a million dollars at a prevailing exchange rate of Rs 55/dollar in 2013. (Today that exchange rate is around Rs. 75/dollar). Mr. Singh’s eldest daughter was allotted a government job and appointed as a revenue officer as compensation after the cabinet approved it on May 28, 2013.[x] Mr. Singh’s wife and second daughter were allotted an “LPG distributorship.” [xi]

“I have handed over a cheque worth 25-lakh rupees, on the behalf of the India government, to this family from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. I think it is insufficient. I have requested the Indian Government to help them as much as possible”[xii] referring to the additional compensation provided to Mr. Sarabjit Singh’s surviving family from Vice Chairman, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe.

Furthermore, “An Indian diplomat’s daughter who was suspended, arrested and forced to spend a day in jail during her senior year in February 2011 on cyber-bullying charges, has won a $225,000 settlement from New York City” quoted an Indian TV news channel. Ms. Krittika Biswas, an Indian citizen and the daughter of the diplomat, was around 18 years old when the alleged incident occurred in New York City. “Alleging that the investigation leading to her arrest was a “sham”, and lacking any real evidence, she had initially sought $1.5 million in her 2012 suit against New York City.”[xiii]

Given the two scenarios above, does the government in India think that rupees 500,000 ($6,666.00) is a fair compensation provided to each surviving victim family in a wrongful death as a result of this encounter which has been determined as “fake” by the investigating agencies? One victim was a minor attending school. The other had returned from a job overseas in Kuwait. The 3rd wanted to enroll in a college. They had their full lives ahead of them. The deceased family members were deprived of the loss of love and companionship.  The families of these victims are devastated and must live through the emotional trauma and the loss of relationship with their children killed in a “fake encounter” by the Indian Army for the rest of their lives. No amount of money can replace the loss of their loved ones, but at least the government in India can make a sincere attempt to compensate them fairly for the heinous crimes of the Indian army perpetrated against these families. Victim #3 was recently married and supported his 21-year-old young wife, an infant child in addition to the rest of his family members. They have been deprived of the financial support due to the death of a main family member in a “fake encounter.” The family is also entitled to punitive damages to punish the culprits.

We trust that the good sense will prevail and the government in India will revisit the decision in determining the fair amount of compensation to the survivors to mitigate their pain and sufferings caused as a result of the criminal actions of Indian security forces. The community is awaiting your comments and the reaction of the Govt of India on this pressing issue. Additionally, the community would like to know if GoI will allow the perpetrators of these murders to stand trial in a criminal court. The prevailing restrictions imposed on account of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Forces Act) in effect in Jammu and Kashmir requires prior permission granted by the central government for prosecution of uniformed members in criminal courts.[xiv]

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns or need additional information to process this pressing humanitarian request.

Best Wishes.

Irfan Malik

6120 Grand Central Pkwy A201

Forest Hills, NY 11375

Cc:         

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
  • Rep. Gregory Meeks
  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal
  • Rep. Grace Meng
  • Rep. Thomas Suozzi
  • Mr. Robert A. Destro, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy
  • US Embassy, New Delhi
  • US State Dept, Washington DC
  • European Parliament-Subcommittee on Human Rights
  • UN DPPA/DPO, New York

References below:


[i] “Press Release”, Kashmir Zone Police Media Center, Dec. 27, 2020.

[ii] “Exclusive: “Contents of brain were coming out,” post-mortem of trio in Shopian fake gunfight”, Kashmirwalla, Jan. 18, 2021.

[iii] “Shopian ‘Encounter’ Involving Army Officer as an Accused is a Case of Murder: J&K Police”, The Wire, Dec. 27, 2020.

https://thewire.in/government/shopian-encounter-army-official-case-murder-jammu-and-kashmir-police

[iv] “Amshipora Encounter,“ Kashmir Life, July 18, 2020.

[v]  “‘Captain, 2 informers killed 3 Rajouri youths in fake encounter’”, State Times, Dec 28, 2020.

[vi]  “#infobug19july20 #Brigadier Ajay katoch press conference regarding yesterday’s #Encounter in shopian 12 sector 62 RR balapora at Head Quarter 12 sector 62 RR #BalaporaShopian”, July 19, 2020.

[vii]  “Rajnath Singh visits holy Amarnath cave shrine in J&K, offers prayers” Zee TV, July 18, 2020.

https://zeenews.india.com/india/rajnath-singh-visits-holy-amarnath-cave-shrine-in-jk-offers-prayers-2296639.html

[viii] “Watch: Amid terror threats, Rajnath Singh visits Amarnath temple”, The Economic Times, July 18, 2020

[ix] “Sukhbir Singh Badal visits Paramjit’s kin, says govt should give Rs 1 crore compensation”, The Indian Express, May 5, 2017.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/sukhbir-visits-paramjits-kin-says-govt-should-give-rs-1-crore-compensation-4641615/

[x] Sarabjit’s daughter appointed revenue official”, Times of India, August 3, 2013.
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/Sarabjits-daughter-appointed-revenue-official/articleshow/21566719.cms

[xi] “Sarabjit Singh’s kin given LPG distributorship”, NDTV, Oct. 04, 2013

https://www.ndtv.com/delhi-news/sarabjit-singhs-kin-given-lpg-distributorship-536669

[xii] “Govt. hands over Rs.25 lakh compensation to Sarabjit’s family”, Business Standard, May 18, 2013.

https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/govt-hands-over-rs-25-lakh-compensation-to-sarabjit-s-family-113051800099_1.html

[xiii] “Indian Diplomat’s Daughter Wins $225,000 Settlement from New York City”, NDTV, September 19, 2014.

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/indian-diplomats-daughter-wins-225-000-settlement-from-new-york-city-668122

[xiv] “Shopian encounter is Manoj Sinha’s litmus test. Justice can act as bridge to Kashmir”, The Print, Oct 15, 2020.

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