Srinagar Military Op: Families continue protest, demand bodies, fair investigation

‘Bodies are properties of families as per international HR laws, why are they afraid of handing them over’

Srinagar: Families of three youth, killed in an “encounter” at Lawaypora area of Srinagar recently, along with some local activists and people on Monday staged a protest demonstration in Press Enclave Srinagar, demanding a fair investigation and return of bodies of the “innocent” trio.

“We want justice. We are ‘oppressed’. Our son was innocent. Return his body,” said a family member of one of the slain youth during the protest held despite the snowfall.

“They have snatched everything from me. Now nothing is left with me. Kill me in encounter also and bury me along with them,” Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, father of the 16-year-old youth Athar Mushtaq Wani who was among the three youth killed last week.

“You (soldiers) will get more rewards and you would be applauded by your mother and sisters as brave sons,” Mushtaq said as protesters, also comprising a social activist and some people besides the families, shouted slogans in demand for “justice.”

Three youth 24-year-old Ajaz Maqbool Ganai from Putrigam Pulwama, 22-year-old Zubair Ahmad Lone from Turkawangam Shopian and Athar Muhstaq Wani from Bellow, Pulwama, were killed on December 31 at Lawaypora.

Police have claimed that the trio were militants despite no case registered against them even as families have consistently rejected the claim.

“Bodies are properties of families as clearly elucidated in International and human rights laws. Why are you afraid of handing over dead bodies,” Angad Singh, a social activist from south Kashmir, told reporters.

“See an Indian army soldier is not an angel and he can also make mistakes. We have seen what happened with three youth from Rajouri in (Amshipora) Shopian. You are media men, please tell me wasn’t it exposed later,” he said, “if they were involved in militancy, please prove to us. It is not the case that you have become court, judge and jury.”

He said that how can teenager Athar who had no case registered against him with police during a short life span of 16 years becomes a “hardcore over ground worker (OGW of militants)” within an hour and a half.

“If there is any democracy, they have to answer. They can give tag of OGW to anyone. Prove the allegations,” the local activist said.

“I am not a politician. I’m a human being and I came in support of these families,” he said, adding, “they (police) now say that Athar’s cousin was killed four years ago being a member of some armed group. How can it be justified to link Athar with him,” he said, adding, “tell me how many (former) MLAs are in Kashmir whose brother, father or cousins were militants. “If this any justification, kill them also.”

He said there are only two demands, one being investigate the case and handover the bodies.

Pertinently, 0n December 30, 2020, families of three “militants killed in a military operation” by a joint team of police, CRPF and Army at Lawaypora in city outskirts of Srinagar staged a protest, asserting that they were “innocent civilians”.

In this regard, the police had said, that “three unidentified militants have been killed while the house where militants were hiding suffered partial damage.”

The General officer Commanding (GoC) Kilo Force H S Sahi has said that three militants killed in 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 “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, police said that three “militants” were killed in a gunfight in Lawaypora area and none of them was on its “list of militants, yet two of them were hardcore associates (OGWs) of militants while third one might have joined very recently.”

The police has said that “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”.

“Due to darkness, the operation was suspended. However the cordon remained intact throughout the night,” the spokesman said.

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 the third statement issued by police on January 1, 2021, after claims by the families of slain trio claiming they were not linked with militancy, police said that “technical verification of the slain trio has revealed that two among the three slain were “radically inclined and were OGWs of Lashkar-e-Taiba outfit now TRF”.

The police spokesman said that “background check also reveals that Aijaz and Ather Mustaq, both OGWs variously provided logistic support to militants. Antecedents and verifications too show that both were radically inclined and had aided of LeT (now so-called TRF) outfit, militants,” the statement said.

It said that one of OGW presently under police custody has also corroborated Aijaz’s association with LeT militant Faisal Mustaq Baba who was killed in Meej (Pampore) military operation in June last year.

Pertinently, Ather was relative and OGW of HM commander Rayees Kachroo who got killed in the year 2017.

“Nevertheless police is investigating into the case from all possible angles,” the statement added.

(With inputs from GNS)


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