Police in India on Sunday accused an Indian Army officer and two of his associates of planting weapons on the bodies of three laborers killed in Kashmir in July to stage a fake gun battle.
The army officer and two others “planted illegally acquired weapons and material on their [the laborers’] dead bodies after stripping them of their identities and tagged them as hardcore terrorists in possession of war-like stores,” according to a Jammu and Kashmir police statement issued late Sunday, Indian online newspaper the Print reported.
Authorities have charged Indian Army Captain Bhoopendra Singh and his two associates with “murder, conspiracy, abduction and giving out false information,” according to the police statement. Singh is currently being held in military detention. His two civilian associates, who were with Singh at the time of the July incident, are in police custody.
The Indian Army claimed this past summer that three men were killed in a village gun battle and that three weapons were found on their bodies. The army buried the men’s bodies in a remote border area following the alleged skirmish. The incident occurred in the village of Amshipora in southern Kashmir, administered by India and claimed by Pakistan.
The men’s families later identified them after photos of their bodies reportedly circulated on social media. The families, from the remote mountain area of Rajouri, said the three men had been looking for work in Kashmir’s apple orchards when they disappeared. Police exhumed the men’s bodies in September and matched DNA samples to the men’s reported identities, confirming them as Ibrar Ahmed, 16, Imtiyaz Ahmed, 25, and Ibrar Ahmed, 20, according to the Print. The police then returned the men’s bodies to their families.
“The controversy sparked rare separate investigations by the Indian army, which has more than 500,000 troops in Kashmir, and the police, who said they were only informed of the supposed firefight after the killings which violated the normal rules of engagement,” Agence France-Presse recalled on Monday.
A local Kashmir court has asked the Indian Army to decide whether to try Capt. Singh in a civilian court or subject him to a military court-martial. Under India’s Armed Forces Special Powers Act, federal security forces deployed to the Himalayan region cannot be tried in a civilian court unless the Indian federal government agrees to the process.
Jammu and Kashmir is administered by India as a union (federal) territory governed by India’s central government in New Delhi. The union territory accounts for the southern portion of greater Kashmir, which has been claimed by Pakistan and China for decades. India is currently engaged in an ongoing border dispute with China in the union territory of Ladakh, located east of Jammu and Kashmir.