Srinagar: Tensions are simmering in parts of Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian region over the government’s decision to bury two Hizbul Mujahideen militants suspected to be locals instead of handing over their bodies to their kin. The union territory administration has now asked two families who had come forward to claim the bodies to provide DNA samples so that their identities can be confirmed.
The militants were killed in a gun battle with security forces in the Dairoo area of Shopian in south Kashmir Friday. The security forces included personnel from the CRPF, Rashtriya Rifles and J&K Police’s Special Operations Group.
Two families from Shopian had come forward to claim the bodies, but they were deemed “unidentified” and buried. But the families were issued curfew passes Sunday so that they could submit the DNA samples in Baramulla Monday, a senior government official told ThePrint, requesting anonymity.
The family of one of the militants suspected to have been killed, Raheel Hamid, also confirmed the development. “They have given permission to one driver and two other family members and asked us to reach police lines in Baramulla to undergo testing,” said Ghulam Nabi, Hamid’s uncle. “We just want to see them once last time and bury them in peace.”
The usual practice
Officials generally confirm the identities of militants within hours of an encounter. If the slain militants turn out to be locals, their bodies are handed over to their families, following medical examination. If they are foreign militants, authorities bury them in graveyards designated for foreign, unclaimed and unidentified militants.
In this case, the police Friday buried the “unidentified” bodies in Sheeri, Baramulla, where mostly foreign militants are buried.
How families got the news
The families began hearing rumours about the encounter while it was still on, and residents heard the militants were locals from Ganavpora and Bongam villages. This resulted in minor clashes.
But the other militant supposedly killed in the encounter, Asif Dar, managed to call his family to bid goodbye during the gun battle, according to reports.
Hamid’s family reached out to the local police to confirm the identities of the slain militants. His uncle Nabi said the family checked with the Shopian police station, and claimed that local police officials confirmed to them that Hamid and Asif Dar were the militants killed.
The families then approached the district magistrate’s office, but were turned back by officials guarding the main gate, who told them to wait for the bodies at their respective homes, Nabi said.
Late Friday evening, the militants were buried in Baramulla, leading to further tensions in the villages of the two men supposedly killed, leading to further minor clashes Friday and Saturday.
FIR for violating lockdown
An FIR was filed against unnamed individuals who had gathered outside government offices, raising further speculation that the police might take action against the families, because they too had gathered there.
However, south Kashmir Atul Kumar Goel denied that FIRs were filed against the families.
“The claim made by some news outlets that FIRs have been filed against the families is wrong. We filed several FIRs against people who broke the lockdown,” Goel told ThePrint.
A police source, though, added that even though the FIR did not name anyone, it was likely that family members of the militants could have been interviewed, as they too had flouted the lockdown rules.
What happens next?
The authorities’ decision to issue curfew passes to the families seems to have cooled things down a bit, but the question remains whether the families will be allowed to exhume the bodies if their DNA samples match the buried militants’.
The families are also clueless about whether they can visit the graves after they submit their DNA samples.
Baramulla SSP Abdul Qayoom said according to the standard operating procedure, the families will have to approach the Baramulla district magistrate with all their requests. The DM will direct the police to take subsequent steps, which may include a visit to the graveyard.
“A decision on whether to exhume the bodies or not will be taken after DNA samples from the bodies and those submitted to authorities Monday are matched. For other requests, the family has to approach the DM,” said Qayoom.
Sources, however, added that the police may allow the families to offer prayers in Sheeri.