Srinagar, Oct. 3: Jammu and Kashmir police on Monday registered an FIR against 10 army personnel for allegedly killing four labourers after framing them as “foreign terrorists” in order to claim gallantry awards.
The FIR has been lodged in Lalpora police station of Kupwara district against Col Rahul Pandey, Major Vijay Singh Chahal and eight other armymen of the 18 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) battalion.
The complaint was filed by Madan Lal, a Jammu resident who identified one of the photos of the four slain “terrorists” as that of his son Bhushan Kumar. Bhushan had reportedly been brought with three others from Jammu by the “involved army personnel” with the promise of employment as porters.
During last year’s parliamentary election, the RR battalion, which was deployed on anti-insurgency duty in the border district of Kupwara, claimed to have killed “four foreign terrorists” in Lolab village after a “fierce encounter” on April 20, 2004.
While bodies of two of the slain “terrorists” had been buried by the army, the other two, which had been defaced, were handed over to police for burial.
The lid was blown off the murder by an anonymous letter written by a soldier to the family of one of the four victims.
The letter, posted from New Delhi, had claimed that Major Vijay Singh Chahal, Naik Jai Singh and two soldiers had brought the four persons to a company headquarters of the 18 RR from Jammu after promising them employment on April 13 last year.
They were allegedly killed on April 20 in an “encounter” near Devar village and “weapons were planted on them to brand them as terrorists”, the letter said. A “fierce gunbattle was staged to get recognition for gallantry”, the letter added.
The FIR has identified the victims as Bhushan Kumar of Mangu Chack, Satpal of Chatha, Ram Lal of Lalayal villages in Jammu and Ashok Kumar of Pathankot in Punjab.
The army also ordered an inquiry headed by a brigadier into the incident. The probe has been completed and the inquiry officer has met the relatives of the four victims and is scheduled to submit his report this week.
The Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir governments today ordered the release of 44 persons arrested in the state on charges of working for militant groups.
The decision to free the prisoners, as a follow-up of the talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Hurriyat Conference leaders in Delhi last month, was taken by the joint screening committee comprising officials of the state and the Centre here today.