Srinagar Encounter: Slain youth’s kin stage protest, demand bodies, and a fair probe, Omar, Mufti advocates claim

The families of two of three youths who were killed in an encounter with security forces on December 30 protested in Srinagar on Monday demanding their bodies and impartial investigation into the matter.

While the army and police have maintained that they were militants, the youths’ families have vouched for their innocence.

The police also released purported videos of the cordoned house where the trio – Zubair Ahmad of Turkawangam, Shopian; Ajaz Maqbool and Athar Mushtaq of Putrigam, Pulwama – was killed in Hokersar-Lawaypora, Srinagar. The security forced had claimed that the youths were repeatedly asked to surrender on the night of December 29 and December 30 morning.

Athar and Zubair’s family members converged at Press Colony here carrying banners “Stop innocents killings” and “We want complete investigation”. The protestors, including elderly and women, shouted slogans demanding justice.

“He had bullets in his chest. The mothers and sisters of soldiers congratulated them for shooting terrorists, but he was just a 16-year-old child,” wailed Mushtaq Ahmad, Athar’s father.

“Are the soldiers happy snatching a piece of my heart? You (security forces) killed my son to feed your children. Shame on you,” he said.

While the police and army have said the trio were killed in exchange of fire, their families have rebutted the claim saying they were civilians. Athar was a Class 11 student, Aijaz was pursuing graduation while Zubair was a skilled worker, according to their families.

Mushtaq said he wanted justice. “I don’t want money. I just want the body of my son,” he said.

“He lies buried there in the snow (in Ganderbal). Whom should I tell? Aren’t people of India listening? I want to tell people of the world that I want justice. I want my son, he is just 16. Either give me my son or bury me there,” he demanded.

As part of the protocol, the authorities have been burying the bodies of militants far away from their homes only allowing a few family members to be part of the burial arranged by police. The trio killed on December 30 was taken to Ganderbal, some 110 km from Pulwama, for burial.

Police release videos of surrender appeal

The police on Monday released two videos of the surrounded house purportedly showing forces asking those inside to surrender. “On 29/12/20 evening after the cordon at Hokersar, troops are repeatedly appealing the trapped terrorists to come out and surrender with assurances that they will not be harmed,” Kashmir police said in a tweet.

“At Hokersar on 30/12/2020 in the morning hours, troops are once again appealing the trapped terrorists to come out in the ground and surrender before them,” it said in another tweet with a video.

Politicos seek speedy investigation

Meanwhile, political parties in Kashmir have asked for probe into the encounter after families’ claims.

National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah on Monday asked L-G Manoj Sinha to hand over the bodies. “The L-G has promised a fair and speedy probe in to this encounter when JKNC Lok Sabha member Hansain Masoodi spoke to him about it recently. In the interim, we hope the L-G will order the handing over of the bodies to the families,” he said in a tweet.

However, police have said that as per their checks Aijaz and Athar were overground workers (OGWs) of militants.

“Background checks also reveal that Aijaz and Athar, both OGWs variously provided logistic support to terrorists. Antecedents and verifications too show that both were radically inclined and had aided terrorists of LeT (now so-called TRF) outfit,” police have said in a statement.

Meanwhile, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti on Monday demanded that bodies of the three alleged militants killed in the Parimpora encounter last week be handed over to their families.

The leaders cited claims of their families that the three were innocent, though the police had said they were radicalised and two of them had links with the Lashkar-e Taiba.

Abdullah said the encounter should be probed in a fair and transparent manner. “It is very important that the probe into this encounter be concluded at the earliest. Only a fair & transparent probe, already promised by @manojsinha_ , will satisfy the families who have lost their loved ones who they insist were innocent,” he tweeted.
‘How can you win hearts of Kashmiris’

People are saying we want the bodies of the three killed, why can’t a mother see the face of her lost son one last time, this is injustice, how can you win the hearts of Kashmiris? Mehbooba Mufti, PDP

The former Chief Minister said the UT Administration should, in the interim, hand over the bodies to their families. “The L-G has promised a fair & speedy probe into this encounter when @JKNC_ Lok sabha member @masoodi_hasnain spoke to him about it recently. In the interim we hope the L-G will order the handing over of the bodies to the families,” he added.
Speaking in the same vein, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said the Centre and the UT Administration should review the policy of not handing over the bodies of those killed in encounters with security forces.

The former CM claimed that during her tenure at the helm, she was also told not to return the bodies of the slain militants.”I refused it as it is against humanity and our religious beliefs,” she said. She claimed that it was not even clear if those killed were militants and urged L-G Manoj Sinha to intervene.

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