Srinagar, Feb. 3: The raging fake encounter scandal in Kashmir today led to the arrest of the highest-ranked police officers ever in the state over rights abuses.
As the controversy turned murkier with the bodies of three more victims exhumed, senior superintendent of police Hansraj Parihar found himself behind bars with deputy superintendent Bahadur Ram.
The officers are accused of masterminding the murder of innocent people and passing them off as Pakistani militants in a racket that has earned the police rewards and promotions.
“Parihar and Bahadur Ram have been booked for murder,’’ state police chief S.M. Sahai said. “We’ll soon bring the chargesheet.’’
The recovery of the bodies of Ghulam Nabi Wani, Showkat Ahmad and Ali Mohammad Padder raised the number of the racket’s known victims to five.
Wani, a street vendor from Kokernag, was allegedly killed by the same Ganderbal unit that is accused of murdering Abdul Rahman Padder and Nazir Ahmad Deka, whose bodies were exhumed earlier.
Both Wani and Ahmad, a mosque imam from Banihal, are suspected to have been arrested in Srinagar before being branded militants and shot. Their bodies were recovered from a graveyard in Ajas, Bandipora.
A police source said the body of Kokernag resident Ali Padder was exhumed in the evening. “The preliminary investigations point to some more bodies but no decision has been taken on exhuming them.”
Shrieks and slogans accompanied the day’s exhumations at Ajas. Wani’s distraught wife Saleema identified the decomposed body by a tattoo on the arm.
Ahmad was identified by father Noor Alam from the piece of cloth he would wear while leading the Friday prayers at Alamgari Bazar in downtown Srinagar.
Thousands gathered at the site on the third consecutive day of exhumation, shouting anti-police slogans and seeking punishment for the guilty.
The army, with suspicion of its involvement in the air, broke its silence. “No Rashtriya Rifles (RR) unit is involved. We will fully cooperate with police investigations,” said defence spokesman Lt Col A.K. Mathur.
Some of the killings are suspected to have been carried out together by the police and an RR unit. Four policemen have been arrested, and officers said more could be held.
Echoing the anger on the streets, separatist leader Yasin Malik called a Kashmir bandh on Tuesday and threatened a “fast unto death” if Delhi did not stop all rights abuses within 45 days.