By Fayaz Bukhari
SRINAGAR (Reuters) - Indian police in Kashmir filed charges against an army officer and a civilian for allegedly killing three labourers and planting weapons to pass them off as militants, in a rare indictment of the military fighting an insurgency in the region.
The three labourers were killed in July after what the Indian army had initially said was a gun battle that started after militants fired at security forces in Amshipora village in southern Kashmir.
But Kashmir police, who come under the direct control of the central government in New Delhi, said in a press release on Sunday that their investigation showed the labourers "were murdered" by an army captain and two civilians - one of whom turned state's evidence.
"They planted illegally acquired weapons and material on their dead bodies after stripping them of their identities," police said, adding that the accused had "deliberately and purposefully" chosen not to follow standard operating procedures.
The Indian army declined to comment on the police statement on Sunday.
In an update last week, an army spokesman said that it was progressing with its own investigation, adding that the army was "committed to ethical conduct of operations."
Rights groups have long accused the Indian army of violating human rights in Kashmir, a Muslim majority region that is claimed in full by both India and Pakistan, but ruled in part by both. The Indian army denies the charges.
Indian security forces have killed over 200 militants in Kashmir this year, officials said, many from groups allegedly backed by Pakistan. Islamabad denies providing material support for militants in Kashmir.
A month after the Amshipora incident, Kashmir police were informed of missing reports for three labourers who had left the neighbouring Rajouri district in July.
Police said they had confirmed the identities of victims by matching their DNA with samples collected from their families in Rajouri.
On Saturday, police filed a 1,400 page charge-sheet against the army officer and one of the civilians.
A court in Kashmir has also asked army authorities whether the captain will be tried in civilian court or by military court martial, the police release said.
(Writing by Abhirup Roy and Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)