Srinagar: The family of one of the three youths killed in an encounter last month held a rally in Srinagar Tuesday to demand the bodies of the slain trio, a day after a top Kashmir police officer reiterated that the bodies won’t be handed over to the families. The officer also said the trio’s involvement in militancy had been proved “almost by 60 per cent”.
The families have rejected the police version that the youths killed in the encounter in Srinagar were militants. They have accused the authorities of staging the encounter.
On Tuesday, Mushtaq Wani, father of deceased Athar Mushtaq, a teenager from Pulwama district, addressed reporters after taking out a rally from his home to an empty grave he had dug to bury his son. It was attended by local villagers and Wani’s relatives.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police has been burying the bodies of slain local militants in far-off locations instead of handing them over to the families, as part of a practice observed to prevent large funeral gatherings amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a message that he sought to give Kashmir Inspector General of Police (IGP) Vijay Kumar through reporters, Wani said he wanted to assure the senior police officer that he would bury his son and that there would be no large funeral gathering. “I want to tell the police that no large funeral gathering will take place. We will bury him in the night,” said Wani.
He also questioned the claim that the bodies are not being handed over due to the pandemic. “Our relative, who was a police officer named Manzoor Ahmed, was killed in Natipora (Srinagar) and I attended his funeral in which thousands of people had come. If the police is saying that we are not returning the bodies due to Covid, how come his body was returned,” Wani said.
Wani’s son Athar, a Class 11 student, Ajaz Ahmed Ganai, son of a local policeman, and Shopian-based Zubair Ahmed Lone were killed in the Srinagar encounter on 30 December 2020.
The killings had triggered protests by the family members outside the police control room in Srinagar. The police had initially identified the three youths as militants. But in a statement released later that evening, the police said the three were not listed as active militants but were involved in insurgency.
The statement two of them were “hardcore associates of terrorists”.
On Monday, IGP Kumar told reporters at a function: “The data collected so far showed that all the three associates killed in the encounter were involved in providing logistics. Their involvement has been proved almost by 60 per cent. We will place everything before their parents to convince them about the involvement of their children.”
Request for returning the bodies
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Wani responded to Kumar’s assertion of the three slain youths being involved in militancy.
“Are accused people first given punishment and then courts approached to prove their crime? You punished Athar and now are finding evidence whether he was guilty or innocent,” said Wani.
J&K Police constable Maqbool Ganai, father of slain youth Ajaz Ganai, told ThePrint his family had been invited by J&K Lieutenant General Manoj Sinha’s office on 23 January. “We just have two requests and we will put them forward to the L-G — return the bodies of our children and probe the encounter,” Ganai said.