SRINAGAR: The Indian army on Friday admitted that its soldiers exceeded their powers which led to the extra-judicial killings of three Kashmiri men in Shopian district of occupied Kashmir.
The three men — cousins — were killed during a so-called counterinsurgency operation on July 18 in the southern Kashmir valley, and buried in a remote border area.
Their families, who identified their bodies from pictures on social media, said they were innocent men and worked as labourers.
The incident generated outrage in Kashmir, with political groups, rights activists and many residents demanding an independent probe into the deaths.
Soldiers deployed by New Delhi have long been accused of abusing their emergency powers in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, following the incident, strongly condemned the killings of the labourers from Rajouri and said that over 200 innocent Kashmiris have been martyred since the beginning of this year in fake encounters and so-called “cordon-and-search” operations.
On Friday, army spokesman Rajesh Kalia said the soldiers on the operation had “exceeded” their powers and “contravened” the guidelines governing military conduct in Kashmir.
“Disciplinary proceedings” would be taken against those responsible, Kalia added.
Police normally accompany soldiers on such operations, although officials said this had not happened on the July operation.
The men’s families say the awaited results of a DNA test ordered as part of the investigation will prove they were local men.
The fake encounter in July revived memories of similar incidents across the disputed territory.
In 2010, three Indian army officers were found guilty of killing three labourers who had been falsely branded as Pakistani infiltrators near the disputed border known as the Line of Control.
The killings sparked months of protests that left more than 100 civilians dead.
In 2000, the army claimed it had killed five “terrorists” responsible for the massacre of 35 Sikhs, but an investigation found the five were locals killed by soldiers in a staged gun battle.
A slew of special emergency laws protect Indian soldiers serving in Kashmir from facing trial in civilian courts, and convictions in military courts are extremely rare.