Hyderpora: Kin of killed civilians removed from protest site, demand return of their mortal remains

Amid widespread public outcry against killing of Altaf Ahmad Bhat and Dr Mudasir Gul, J&K govt has ordered magisterial enquiry into Hyderpora encounter

Representative photo
Representative photo

Gulzar Bhat

The families and relatives of slain Altaf Ahmad Bhat and Dr Mudasir Gul, who had been staging a peaceful sit-in at Srinagar's Press Colony since Wednesday morning were detained by the police around midnight. They were demanding the return of the mortal remains of their slain members.

"At the stroke of midnight, their fundamental right was snatched by the police", said a miffed law student, referring to the removal and detention of the families of two slain civilians from a protest site.

They, however, had been released on Thursday morning.

"At the stroke of midnight, their fundamental right was snatched by the police", said a miffed law student, referring to the removal and detention of the families of two slain civilians from a protest site.

"The police came and bundled them into their vehicles and drove to a police station", said an eyewitness.

A short video clip of the police removing the protesters from the site was widely circulated online.

"The right to peaceful protest is the fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution, but for J&K administration it hardly makes a scrap of difference", said the law student.

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in a tweet billed the police action on the protesting families as outrageous.

"This is the naya Kashmir of 2021. This is how the J&K police fulfils @PMOIndia promise to remove “dil ki doori & Dilli se doori. It’s outrageous that the J&K administration did not allow the families to conduct a peaceful sit in protest", Omar tweeted.

Besides Bhat and Gul, a foreign militant and a resident of Gool in Jammu division's Ramban district, Aamir Magray were also killed in the encounter, which took place in Srinagar's Hyderpora area on Monday afternoon.

Soon after the encounter, police said that Gul had given refuge to the militants, while Magray was working as Over Ground Worker.

The police also said that both Bhat and Gul were killed in cross-firing.

The families, however, contested the police claims, vouching for the innocence of their dead family members.

"Why did you orphan my one-year old daughter? My husband was innocent and he had nothing to do with militants", said Humaira, wife of Gul.

Humaira said that if police proved that her husband was an OGW, she was ready to be killed along with her one-year old daughter.

Abdul Majeed, Altaf's brother also said that his brother was not related to any militant activity.

"He was a simple businessman and was not related to any militant organisation", said Majeed.

The families of both Bhat and Gul said they had been turned into human shields by the forces.

“The forces buried him stealthily. We were not allowed to see his body for one last time. His children are getting fidgety to see even the dead body of their father”, said Majeed.

On Tuesday evening, Magray's family—the third person who was killed also claimed that their son was a civilian.

In an online video, Moahmamd Latif Magarey said that his son was working as laborer in the area.

“I have myself killed militants… and had to relocate due to threat perceptions, and now my son is being passed off as militant” , Magray said in the short video.

Last year on July 18, army allegedly shot dead three laborers’ from Rajouri area in south Kashmir’s Shopian district and labelled them as militants.

“The unfettered powers enjoyed by the security forces under Armed Forces Special Powers Act ( AFSPA) spur such incidents. The security forces have almost no accountability in the areas where such laws are in force. Be it our North-East region or Kashmir”, said a security analyst, who declined to be named.

While the families have been demanding the return of the mortal remains of their children, the security forces interred the bodies of all the four persons in north Kashmir’s Handwara area.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has stopped returning the bodies of militants to their legal heirs in an attempt to stave off the spread of infection. A few family members are allowed to participate in the last rites of the slain performed in an outlying village in north Kashmir.

However, the political observers believed that the government had been toying with the idea of burying the militant bodies stealthily since 2019 to prevent big funeral.

The rights activists say that a decent burial is a part of our fundamental right.

“Every dead body deserves a decent burial. It is a part of our fundamental right. You can’t bury someone discreetly’, said a Valley based rights activist.

Last year, Taking a suo motu Public Interest Litigation petition when a surgeon was not allowed to be buried in a cemetery at Kilpauk, Madras High Court had observed that the fundamental right to life guaranteed under the Constitution includes the right to decent burial or cremation.

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