The families of the two of the three young men who were killed in an encounter by security forces on December 30 protested in Srinagar on Monday demanding their bodies that have been buried in Ganderbal and impartial investigation into the encounter.
While the army and police have insisted that they were militants, the youths’ families continued to claim that they were innocent.
The police also released purported videos of the cordoned house where the trio – Zubair Ahmad from Turkawangam Shopian, Ajaz Maqbool and Athar Mushtaq(16-17 years) from Putrigam Pulwama – was killed in Hokersar-Lawaypora Srinagar claiming that they were repeatedly asked to surrender on the night of December 29 and in the morning of December 30.
The family members of Athar Mushtaq and Zubair Ahmad converged at Press Colony in Srinagar carrying banners which read “Stop innocents killings” and “We want complete investigation”. Amid wails, the protestors including elderly and women were shouting slogans demanding justice. The protest lasted about an hour with a few dozen people participating in it.
“He had bullets in his chest. The mothers and sisters of soldiers then congratulate them saying that you have shot terrorists on the front. But he was just a 16-year-old child,” a wailing Mushtaq Ahmad, father of Athar said.
“Are the soldiers happy now snatching a piece of my heart? You killed my son to feed your children. Shame on you,” he said.
While the police and army have said that the trio was killed in exchange of fire at Hokersar-Lawaypora in Srinagar, their families have rebutted the claim and said that 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 that 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. I am already dead. Either give me my son or bury me there,” he said.
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.
The police have rejected the claims of the families but promised to probe the case from all possible angles.
On Monday, the police 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 to 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.
Almost all the mainstream political parties in Kashmir have raised questions over the encounter after the claims of the families.
National conference vice president Omar Abdullah on Monday asked lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha to facilitate the handing over of the bodies. “The LG has promised a fair & 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 LG will order the handing over of the bodies to the families,” he said in a tweet.
“It is very important that the probe in to 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 said.
However, police have said that their checks have revealed that the Aijaz and Athar were over ground workers of militants.
“Background checks also revealed that Aijaz and Ather Mushtaq, both OGWs (over ground workers of militants) variously provided logistic support to terrorists. Antecedents and verifications too shows that both were radically inclined and had aided terrorists of LeT (now so-called TRF) outfit,” the police said in a statement.