Army official staged Shopian encounter for Rs.20 lakh cash reward, J&K Police says in charge sheet

Published : January 12, 2021 20:58 IST

Army jawans stand guard near the encounter site at Amshipora area of Shopian in south Kashmir on July 18, 2020. Photo: The Hindu

The ‘fake encounter’ in Amshipora, Shopian, in July 2020 was staged for a reward of Rs.20 lakh, the charge sheet filed by the Jammu and Kashmir Police has stated, PTI reported. This follows the December 27 revelation by the J&K Police that Captain Bhoopendra Singh of the Rashtriya Rifles 62 battalion, along with two civilians, Tabish Nazir Malik of Chowgam area in Shopian and Bilal Ahmed Lone from Pulwama, conspired to abduct and stage the ‘encounter’ of three youths who had been reported missing by their families based in Rajouri in July 2020.

The motive of the staged encounter, as stated in the charge sheet, was to claim the reward money, given to security personnel for eliminating militants. “By staging the encounter, Capt. Bhupinder Singh of 62 RR [Rashtriya Rifles] and two other civilians also purposefully destroyed evidence of the 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 Rs.20 lakh,” the charge sheet stated.

The Army refuted this theory. “It is clarified that Indian Army has no system of cash awards for its personnel for any acts in combat situations or otherwise in the line of duty. The report is mala fide [misleading] and not based on facts of the processes internal to Indian Army,” Srinagar-based defence spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.

The 1,400-page charge sheet, filed by the Jammu & Kashmir Police before the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Shopian, was based on 75 witness accounts. Of these, at least four have testified that Capt. Bhupinder Singh “initiated a few bursts of live ammunition even before a cordon was laid” and that others joined him very late in engaging the suspected militants. The charge sheet recorded the statements of Capt. Bhupinder Singh’s team members, including Subedar Garu Ram, Lance Naik Ravi Kumar, and sepoys Ashwini Kumar and Yougesh.

Capt. Bhupinder Singh and his two civilian accomplices have been charged with murder, criminal conspiracy, and illegal possession of arms. As per the charge sheet, Singh likely planted two pistols with two magazines, four empty pistol cartridges, 15 live cartridges and 15 empty cartridges of the AK series weapon, and other ‘objectionable items’ at the encounter site, and then claimed to have recovered them.

On July 17, the Indian Army launched an operation acting on specific inputs the 62 Rashtriya Rifles battalion provided regarding the presence of militants at Amshipora village in Shopian district. A DNA test report confirmed that the three deceased were migrant workers from Jammu’s Rajouri district. They were identified as: Abrar Ahmed (26), son of Mohammad Yousuf, a resident of Tarkassi; Imtiyaz, son of Sabar Hussain, a resident of Kathuni Mohalla of Dharsakri; and Mohammad Ibrar of Kathuni Mohalla of Dharsakri near Peeri.

A court of inquiry which the Army ordered reportedly found the encounter to have been staged.