Indian officer accused of planting weapons on Kashmir civilians

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  • An Indian army officer and two civilians were charged for planting weapons on the bodies of three labourers.
  • Indian police said the plan was to create a narrative that the dead men were Kashmiri militants.
  • Captain Bhoopendra Singh is in military detention and conspirators are in police custody.

Indian police on Sunday accused an army officer and two associates of planting weapons on the bodies of three labourers killed in Kashmir to make it look as though they were armed fighters in a staged gun battle.

Their July deaths sparked a furore in the Indian-administered Kashmir.

READ | Pakistan demands Kashmir action while ignoring plight of China's Uighur Muslim population

Captain Bhoopendra Singh has been charged with murder, conspiracy and other offences, the police statement said. He is now in military detention.

The two civilian "sources", who were with him at the time, are in police custody.

A police statement issued late on Sunday said the officer and two others "planted illegally acquired weapons and material on their dead bodies after stripping them of their identities and tagged them as hardcore terrorists in possession of war-like stores".

In September, the Indian army admitted its soldiers had exceeded powers under the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which accords impunity to soldiers in the killing of the civilians.

Looking for work

The army had initially claimed that the three men were killed in a gun battle in the village of Amshipora in south Kashmir and that three weapons were found on them.

The bodies were hurriedly buried in a remote border area.

The men's families in the remote mountainous area of Rajouri identified them one month later from photographs that circulated on social media.

The families said the three had only been looking for work in Kashmir's apple orchards.

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.

The army said last week only that the recording of evidence in the case had been completed and action would follow.

Following the investigation, the bodies of the three men were exhumed in September and returned to their families after DNA tests.

A local court has asked the army whether the accused officer should be tried in a civilian court or subjected to a military court martial, according to the statement.

Under the AFSPA, an emergency law applied in Kashmir since 1990 when an armed rebellion erupted against Indian rule, Indian soldiers deployed in the region cannot be tried in a civilian court unless New Delhi agrees.

No such permission has ever been granted during the last 30 years, despite dozens of requests by the police after investigations into actions by the security forces.

Staged gun battle

Human rights activists in Kashmir point out that in the past army has killed many civilians in staged gun battle after terming them "rebels" to claim monetary benefits and medals.

In 2010, a police investigation revealed the army killed three civilians in a staged gun battle at Machil area near the Line of Control in Kupwara district.

The three civilians were lured to Machil and killed there before being labelled "militants" by the army.

Tens of thousands of people, mainly civilians, have died in the decades-old conflict.

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