SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir Police is probing the role of the Indian Army in the alleged enforced disappearance of five missing civilians from Poonch district of the state in 2005, The Citizen has learnt. They were all working as labourers in Srinagar.

Mohammed Mushtaq Gojer, Mohammed Rafiq Gojer, Mushtaq Ahmed Gojer, Mohammed Javaid Gojer and Abdul Majeed Gojer, all residents of Sanglani village in Surankote of Poonch, have been reported missing since June 13, 2005 when they were hired by an unidentified man from Dalgate area of Srinagar.

According to a complaint filed with the police by one of their associate from Poonch at Nehru Park police post on June 25, 2005, the unidentified man, who gave his name as 'Shaheen', offered Rs 1000 advance payment, telling him that the men were to work in Kupwara district.

After police scrutinized the details of the phone number provided to the complainant by the unidentified man, sources said, it turned out that the SIM was procured against the documents of Mohammed Sidiq Malik, a resident of Kupwara but the number was actually used by Abdul Qayoom Baba, also a resident of Kupwara.

Following a rap by the state high court on December 14 last year, the Jammu and Kashmir police's fresh investigation has alluded to the role of the Army in the mysterious disappearance of the five labourers. The police has also filed a status report in the case last week.

“Abdul Qayoom has transpired as an active member of the Indian Army,” the status report mentions, adding that the name of three more persons, Bashir Ahmad, Siraj-ud-Din and Abdul Ahad Mir, all residents of Kupwara, has also appeared as “suspects” in the case but they have not been arrested so far.

“Following the court directions, we have formed a special investigations team to probe the matter. Since 2005, the five victims have never returned home and their families fear they have been killed in a staged encounter and passed off as militants,” a senior police officer said.

A case vide FIR 124/2005 under sections 365 of RPC has already been registered at Ram Munshi Bagh in Srinagar in connection with the mysterious disappearances and the SIT has started fresh investigations in the case.

“We had called both the SIM card user and the man whose documents were used to obtain it, for questioning but the latter didn’t turn up. A fresh summon has been issued to him. The complainant will be also questioned again. Besides, a manhunt has been launched to nab the other suspects,” the police officer said.

Custodial disappearance of civilians and their killing in staged encounters by government forces, who later brand them militants to get cash rewards, is not a new phenomenon in the conflict-wracked Kashmir where more than 8000 people have become victims of enforced disappearance over the last three decades of turmoil, according to human rights groups.

“In many cases, like Machil fake encounter, although the official investigations have indicted government forces for killing innocent civilians and passing them off as militants to get quick promotions and cash rewards, very little has been done to bring perpetrators to justice,” Khurram Pervez, a renowned rights activist based in Srinagar, said.

(Cover Photograph BASTI ZARGAR)