J&K: Bodies of two civilians killed in Hyderpora encounter exhumed as magisterial probe begins
The latest development emerged after family members of the deceased along with political leaders staged protests, demanding justice in what they described as 'cold-blooded' murder
Authorities of the Jammu and Kashmir administration exhumed the bodies of Mohammad Altaf Bhat and Mudasir Gul, two killed in the Hyderpora encounter on Thursday and handed them over to their families. Shortly after their bodies were exhumed, families members carried out their burial. As per reported information, officials asked families to restrict the burial rites to close relatives and sought assurances from them.
This will be for the first time that the body of a person buried under police watch is returned to his kin since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March last year.
The latest development emerged after family members of the deceased along with political leaders staged protests, demanding justice in what they described as 'cold-blooded murder’.
Here's a look at what's happened so far in this incident.
Altaf Ahmad Bhat and Mudasir Gul and Aamir Magray were among the four persons killed in the Hyderpora encounter on 15 November.
The encounter took place at a shopping complex owned by Bhat, in Hyderpora area on the highway in Srinagar. The family members of Bhat, Gul and Aamir Magray have alleged that they were civilians and used as "human shields and killed in cold blood."
Bhat ran a hardware store on the ground floor, Gul was his tenant on first floor running a construction business office. Aamir was Gul's office assistant.
However, Inspector General Vijay Kumar Kashmir claimed that Gul was an over ground worker (OGW) and ran an illegal call centre in a private building. IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar also said that Bhat was counted among the "harbourers" of militants.
After the encounter, the police buried the bodies of the four in a graveyard in Handwara, some 100km from Srinagar.
Families stage protests
Family members of the deceased were grief-stricken when they heard about the killings. Moreover, the fact that their loved ones were buried away only made them angrier.
Camping at Press Colony since Wednesday morning, the loved ones of the deceased were demanding the return of their bodies.
Altaf Ahmad Bhat's brother, while speaking to news agency PTI, said that he would have informed him if his brother was invovled in militancy. “He (Bhat) was doing business in Hyderpora Bypass for the last 30 years. He rented the building and we had furnished their (tenants) verification in police station Saddar. The police should have contacted us if there was anything (adverse),” he said.
Mudassir Gul’s wife Humaira Mudassir said her husband was innocent. "We want justice. Give justice to his wife, his mother and father. Give justice to his one-year-old daughter Inaya Mudasir," Humaira was quoted as saying.
Political parties in the Valley condemned the killings and demanded a probe into the encounter.
The Hurriyat Conference called for a strike in the Valley to express solidarity with the families of the civilians killed in the Hyderpora encounter.
Their statement had read, "Hurriyat Conference regrets that as most peoples' leadership and political activists are either in jails or under house detention, to protest such inhumanity, and in solidarity with the devastated families of the slain civilians and their demand that the dead bodies of their loved ones be returned to them for burial, people should observe a shut down on 19 November on their own.”
People's Democratic Party (PDP) president and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti also condemned the incident, writing on Twitter, "Instead of handing over mortal remains of the innocent civilians, police has arrested the family members for demanding the bodies of their loved ones. Unbelievably ruthless & insensitive. Least they can do is return the mortal remains immediately."
Instead of handing over mortal remains of the innocent civilians, police has arrested the family members for demanding the bodies of their loved ones. Unbelievably ruthless & insensitive. Least they can do is return the mortal remains immediately. https://t.co/HtnH7eKAIy
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) November 17, 2021
People's Conference chief Sajad Lone said the administration is intent on presenting its "inhuman and ugly face". "What on earth Has happened to the administration. Y can't they present a human face. Y r they so intent on presenting a v inhuman and ugly face (sic)," he said in a tweet.
What on earth Has happened to the administration. Y can’t they present a human face. Y r they so intent on presenting a v inhuman and ugly face. pic.twitter.com/CH63ysnwjo
— Sajad Lone (@sajadlone) November 17, 2021
Meanwhile, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah staged a non-violent sit-in along with party leaders outside the residence of chief justice of Jammu and Kashmir high court and demanded for the return of bodies of the civilians killed in the Hyderpora encounter.
VP Omar Abdullah led a peaceful sit-in demanding the return of bodies of those killed in Hyderpora. After the family member of the slain informed him that the authorities have assured the return of dead bodies, the protest was called off. pic.twitter.com/puyvp4kkpL
— JKNC (@JKNC_) November 18, 2021
"We are sitting here peacefully. If we wanted we would have blocked roads, bridges, but no. There has been no sloganeering, no law and order disturbance and no road has been blocked.
"We are not raising voice against the government, we just demand that bodies be returned," Omar told reporters at the Municipal Park on Thursday.
He said despite the fact that the police admitted that the civilian was killed in crossfire, his body was not given to the family, but buried in Handwara.
On 18 November, the Jammu and Kashmir government announced that a probe would be carried out into the encounter.
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha ordering a magisterial probe into the killings, he said, "A magisterial inquiry by officer of ADM rank has been ordered in Hyderpora encounter. Govt will take suitable action as soon as report is submitted in a time-bound manner. JK admin reiterates commitment of protecting lives of innocent civilians & it will ensure there is no injustice."
Hours after the announcement, Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar Muhammad Aijaz Asad appointed additional district magistrate Khurshid Ahmad Shah as the inquiry officer.
Shah immediately issued a public notice, urging people who wish to record their statement in connection with Monday's encounter and approach his office within 10 days on all working days.
With inputs from agencies
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