Srinagar: Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has assured an “impartial enquiry” into the military operation in Lawaypora in outskirts of Srinagar earlier this week. While police and army claim that three youth killed were “militants”, their families have contested it, saying that the “trio was innocent”.
The assurance of holding impartial enquiry was made by the Lieutenant Governor to National Conference Member Parliament and former judge of the JK High Court Hasnain Massodi who spoke to him last night, according to former chief minister Omar Abdullah.
MP Anantnag @masoodi_hasnain spoke to J&K LG @manojsinha_ yesterday evening and expressed his anguish over the reports surrounding Wednesday's encounter around HMT area in Srinagar. Mr. Manoj Sinha assured an impartial enquiry into the matter.
— JKNC (@JKNC_) January 1, 2021
“MP Anantnag @masoodi_hasnain spoke to J&K LG @manojsinha_ yesterday evening and expressed his anguish over the reports surrounding Wednesday’s encounter around HMT area in Srinagar. Mr. Manoj Sinha assured an impartial enquiry into the matter,” Omar tweeted.
Earlier in a statement issued on Thursday, Masoodi sought an impartial investigation into the “killings and had impressed on the government to clear the ambiguities leading to the killing of three youth”.
“The police version is not convincing and clear-cut; it is an admitted case of police that none of the three youth in their early twenties were in the militant list; two of the youth are admitted not to have been involved in militant activities and said to be OGWs. In the case of a third boy who is twenty years old, it is said that he ‘might have joined militant ranks”, he said, adding, “The statement joined together is far from convincing and lends support to the version of families of the slain trio that they were innocent and not involved in any militant activity”.
He asked the government to recall the Shopian killing and subsequent findings that those killed were innocent and had come all the way from Rajouri to earn livelihoods and continue their studies.
He demanded a thorough investigation into the issue and return of bodies of slain youth to their families so that their last rites are observed by their families at their respective places.
Masoodi said the matter warrants time-bound inquiry as the versions of the family and the police are contradictory. “The version of the family in wake of the ambiguous version of police seems to be nearer to the truth. Therefore it becomes imperative upon the government to come clean on the matter. In previous Shopian killings, the boys were found innocent,” he said.
Pertinently, on December 30, 2020, families of three persons claimed to be “militants ” staged a protest, asserting that they were innocents.
“Yesterday at 10 am, he had tea with me and I swear about it. I don’t know where he was brought down from Sumo. Is this what is going to happen in Kashmir. Is this democracy? Is this the governor Raj? Kill me. Why you killed him. He was a student,” said Bashir Ahmad Ganie, grandfather of Aijaz Maqbool, one of the slain.
“Why was he killed? Was he a terrorist?” he asked, adding, “(Aijaz) is the son of a policeman Mohammad Maqbool Ganie who is posted in Ganderbal,” the elderly man told reporters outside PCR in Srinagar. “Tell us why our son was killed. If they don’t, let them send task force and kill us all at home,” the elderly man said.
Besides, Aijaz Mushtaq from Putrigam Pulwama, families of two others—Ather Mushtaq Wani (class 11th student as per family) son of Mushtaq Ahmad Wani from Bellow Pulwama and Zubair Ahmad Lone (carpenter) from Turkewagan Shopain—also protested and claimed they are innocents.
In this regard, the police had said, that “three unidentified militants have been killed while search operation is on. The house where militants were hiding suffered partial damage.”
The operation began after a joint team of Police, army’s 02 RR and CRPF launched a cordon and search operation in Lawaypora.
The General officer Commanding (GoC) Kilo Force H S Sahi said that three militants killed in an encounter at Lawaypora on Srinagar outskirts were planning a big strike on the highway to gain publicity.
Addressing a joint press conference at 2 RR headquarters at Zainakote, HMT, Srinagar, GoC Kilo Force said that in the past one week, five militants including a Pakistani national were killed in two separate gunfights in north Kashmir.
“Since past many days, intelligence inputs were pouring in continuously about the movement of militants on the Srinagar-Baramulla highway. Yesterday, we developed leads and came to know that militants are hiding in a house right opposite to Noora hospital at Lawaypora in HMT area,” Sahi said.
“The militants fired indiscriminately at security forces and lobbed grenades as well. The operation was put on a halt due to dark but cordon layers were tightened. With the first light, the firefight again resumed and militant used heavy ammunition against security forces,” the GoC said, adding that in the ensuing gunfight three militants were killed.
In the second statement issued yesterday, police said that three “militants” were killed in a gunfight in Lawaypora area and none of them were on its list of “(militants, yet two of them were hardcore associates (OGWs) of (militants) while third one might have joined very recently.”
“On 29-12-2020, at about 05:30 PM troops of 02RR launched a Cordon and Search Operation on a specific input near Lawaypora where the (militants) hurled a grenade on the searching party and fired indiscriminately on troops while laying cordon,” a police spokesperson said.
“On receipt of this information Srinagar police immediately along with Police Component Srinagar and Valley QAT CRPF rushed to the spot,” the spokesperson said, adding, “Search party of 02 RR was heavily fired upon by the (militants) hiding inside the building which was retaliated.”
Repeated announcements were made to the hiding militants to lay down their “illegal weapons” and surrender but instead, they fired continuously upon the searching party, the spokesman said further in the statement.
“Due to darkness, the operation was suspended. However the cordon remained intact throughout the night,” the spokesman said, adding, “On the 30th morning with the first light repeated announcements were again made to hiding (militants) to surrender but the (militants) fired indiscriminately on security forces which was retaliated again, resulting in the elimination of (militants).”
The operation ended over at 11:30hrs in which all the three “hiding militants” were killed.
“Upon their search, arms (One AK 47 rifle & two pistols) and ammunition and other incriminating material along with some documents were recovered,” the spokesman said.
From the “recoveries”, the spokesman said, their identity has been established as Ajaz Maqbool Ganie, Ather Mushtaq both residents of Pulwama and Zubair Lone resident of Shopian.
The statement added: “Some families from South Kashmir came to PCR and claimed them to be their wards. They (were) sent to Ganderbal for further identification and participation in last rites in the presence of Magistrate.)”
In this connection, a case under relevant sections of law has been registered and investigation has been initiated.
“It is pertinent to mention that a few (militant) incidents have occurred in this area recently and reportedly these (militants) have also come from South Kashmir to target the convoy of security forces,” the spokesman said, adding, “Although the three killed (militants) in today’s encounter were not mentioned in our list of (militants), yet two of them are hardcore associates (OGWs) of (militants).” Pertinently, the spokesman said, one of the two was relative of top HM (Hizb) commander Rayees Kachroo who was killed in 2017.
“Reportedly, third might have joined very recently,” the spokesman said, adding, “Generally parents don’t have an idea about the activities of their wards. Several OGWs after committing (militant) crimes like grenade throwing and pistol shooting etc stay normally with their family.”
For instance, the spokesman said, “one student from Pulwama who was taking coaching in Srinagar was caught for lobbying a grenade with the help of CCTV’s footage. His parents were totally unaware of his (militant) activities.”
However, the spokesman said that “Police is investigating the case and after thorough investigation will come to the conclusion soon on merits.”
“It is pertinent to mention here that the trio killed in today’s encounter was given ample opportunity to surrender both yesterday evening and today morning but they didn’t surrender and instead fired and lobbed grenades on the search party.”