Poonch Civilian Killings: J&K Government Announces Compensation After Allegations Of 'Custodial Deaths'

Following protests by regional political parties over the alleged custodial death of three civilians, the Jammu and Kashmir administration today announced compensation and jobs for the next of kin of the civilians hailing from the remote Poonch district.

Poonch terrorist attack

Following protests by regional political parties over the alleged custodial death of three civilians, the Jammu and Kashmir administration today announced compensation and jobs for the next of kin of the civilians hailing from the remote Poonch district.

“The medico-legal formalities were conducted and legal action in this matter has been initiated by the appropriate authority. The government has announced compensation for each of the deceased. Further, the Government has also announced compassionate appointments to the next of kin of each deceased,” the Information Department of the Jammu and Kashmir government tweeted. 

The Indian Army in a tweet said that the matter is under investigation.

However, the government didn’t provide any details about the people who killed the three civilians.

A day after a major terrorist attack on the army in which five soldiers were killed in Poonch and two were injured, over a dozen persons from the Gujjar community were picked up. 

While addressing a press conference in Srinagar, former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said after the militant attack, the Army on Friday picked up 15 villagers from TopiPeer hamlet, and subsequently bodies of the three villagers were found.  

According to locals, Mehbooba said, 15 persons from Topa village were detained by the army for questioning. Three of them - Mohd Shabbir, Showkat Hussain, and Safeer Hussain - were later found dead and their bodies allegedly showed telltale signs of torture. The remaining 12 detainees are also undergoing treatment in hospitals across Surankote and Poonch.

She said the people of Rajouri and Poonch have been away from militancy and have not given any support to it over the past several decades. “There was no militancy in the area but it has surfaced in the region for the past few years. There is no local involvement, however,” she said. “All those militants killed in the area have been outsiders, not locals,” she added.

Taking on the BJP, Mehbooba said that the party for the past few years has been drum-beating about the “return of peace and normalcy.” Blaming both the Central government and State administration, Mehbooba expressed concern over the escalating situation in these twin districts, citing recent distressing incidents.

She alleged that despite Jammu and Kashmir being turned into an open prison, thousands of youths are in jails, journalists are booked under the UAPA, and many Army soldiers from sepoy to colonel-level officers have been killed in Rajouri Poonch. “Had it happened in any other government whole godi media would have been asking questions to the government about happenings in Rajouri and Poonch,” Mehbooba said. “What kind of happy Kashmir is this where neither Army men nor civilians are safe,” she added. 

Mufti cited widely circulated news articles and online videos as evidence, expressing deep concern over the escalating "brutality against civilians in the region." The internet has been shut down in the region after the video went viral.

"Remember Amshipora?" Mehbooba said, referring to the infamous fake encounter case where three civilians were killed. "The Army court found the culprits guilty, only for the civil court to overturn the verdict. Where is justice in this broken system?"

In March this year, an army court gave life sentence to the captain involved in the Amshipora fake encounter. On July 18, 2020, in Amshipora village, three young labourers from the Rajouri district “were murdered” in a staged gun battle and were then passed off as hardcore militants. Mehbooba urged Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to order a thorough probe into the Poonch incident and ensure swift action against those responsible. She also demanded Rs 50 lakh compensation for each deceased family and Rs 5 lakh for the injured, emphasizing the need for accountability and a strong message against such atrocities.

At the National Conference headquarters in Srinagar, NC leaders condemned the "custodial death of civilians" in Poonch and demanded an inquiry into the killings. The NC leaders protested at the NC headquarters against the incident. “For the past five years, the government has not allowed anyone to raise a voice. But we must raise the voice,” NC leader Salman Sagar said. The Apni party also protested against the incident.

Over the past couple of years, a surge in violence has shaken the Rajouri and Poonch districts of Jammu, marked by a series of encounters and ambushes. In 2023 alone, 20 security force personnel and 28 militants were killed in encounters, ambushes, and infiltration bids. While ten security personnel were killed in Rajouri, 10 security personnel died in Poonch district.

In the latest incident, on December 21, in Surankote's Bufliaz area within the Poonch district, four Army soldiers lost their lives while two others sustained injuries during an encounter with militants.