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Monday, August 13, 2012

Bandipore ‘encounter’

ASP removed as Army angry over leakage of probe findings to media

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 12: Additional SP of Bandipore, Waseem Qadiri, has been removed and shifted back to a junior position in Special Operations Group (SOG) Srinagar as Army has taken umbrage over his alleged act of leaking findings of an investigation to media. Without holding a press conference or issuing a formal press release, some Police officials are alleged to have disclosed to a Srinagar-based newspaper that the July 24/25 ‘encounter’ in Bandipore was “fake” and officers of Rashtriya Rifles 27th Bn had actually gunned down a 22-year-old civilian and labeled him as a militant.

Even as none of the Police officials agreed to make comment, well-placed authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that ASP Bandipore, Waseem Qadiri, has been immediately removed from his posting and directed to report back as a Dy SP with SOG Srinagar. He will have to function under his 2001 batch-mate, Zulfikar Choudhary, who is holding the charge of SP SOG Srinagar. Earlier this year, SDPO Kothibagh Mr Zulfikar, who officiated as SP East for over a year, was appointed as head of SOG Srinagar and Dy SP Mr Qadiri as ASP Bandipore.

In the last two weeks, Qadiri had carried out a detailed investigation into the killing of a youth, namely Hilal Ahmad Dar of Aloosa village, in an alleged fake encounter by troops of RR 27 Bn. Twenty-two-year-old Dar had died in a controversial shootout in close vicinity of his residential village in Bandipore during the night intervening July 24th and 25th. While as in initial press release, Army claimed that Dar was a militant who died in an ambush and his AK-47 rifle was also recovered alongwith his body, his family members and residents staged massive demonstrations, claiming that Dar was an innocent youth (working as a security guard in a private cement factory in Khrew area of Pampore) and he had been killed in a fake encounter and labeled as a militant.

With a valley-wide shutdown on the separatist hardline leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s call, Bandipore remained shut in protest for five days. It was in the wake of this outcry that union Defence Minister, A K Antony, overruled Srinagar-based 15 Corps and Udhampur-based Northern Command’s version and ordered an inquiry into the circumstances that led to Dar’s death.

While the Army’s internal probe was underway, a Srinagar-based English daily reported on the basis of unidentified Police sources that Police had cracked the whole episode. It reported that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Police, supervised by DIG North Kashmir Rajesh Kumar, had found Army’s own local helpers involved in staging the “fake encounter”. According to the newspaper report, Police had arrested an Army helper, namely Mohammad Ramzan alias Rameez, and his associate, Nazir Ahmad, who spilled the beans during interrogation and revealed how an officer of RR 27 Bn had given an AK-47 rifle to Ramzan who handed it over to Dar and told him falsely that a group of militants was keen to meet him at a hideout.

While Dar was on way to the destination given to him by Ramzan, troops in ambush (over Ramzan’s fabricated tip off) opened fire. Dar died in the shootout and troops claimed to have recovered his AK-47 rifle. Both, Ramzan and Nazir, have been in Police custody.

Police did not officially react to the report, initially carried by one English language daily and later followed by almost all the newspapers, news agencies and television channels.

Sources told Early Times that senior Army officials objected to leakage of the Police findings and communicated their displeasure to the top level authorities in J&K Police. They insisted that the Police investigation should not have been leaked to media before Army would complete its own investigation. Sources said that Police launched an internal inquiry as to how the SIT probe findings had been leaked to media. It was during this inquiry that ASP Qadiri was held responsible for leakage to a friendly reporter.

While the new DGP, Ashok Prasad, laid an embargo on all Police officials below the rank of IGP Kashmir and warned them against sharing such details with media, ASP was removed and directed to join back as Dy SP in SOG Srinagar. Sources said that Qadiri has been relieved on Saturday.


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