Jammu & Kashmir: Bodies of 2 Kashmiri civilians killed by Indian forces returned to families
By Hilal Mir
SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir, India, (AA): Indian-administered Kashmir authorities returned the bodies of two civilians killed by government forces on Tuesday, after widespread public outrage and protests by the bereaved families.
After being exhumed at a remote northern Kashmir hamlet, more than 80 kilometers (50 miles) from their homes in Srinagar, the bodies of Altaf Ahmad Bhat and Dr. Mudasir Gul were handed to the families for burial in their native places.
Videos shared on social media showed distraught families breaking into sobs amid religious slogans when the bodies reached home. The deceased civilians were buried after the last glimpse by their family members and relatives.
Bhat and Gul were among the four people killed on Tuesday in the Hyderpora area of capital Srinagar, where Bhat owned a shopping complex in which Gul was a tenant. The third deceased, Aamir Magray, worked as an office help for Gul.
Police said that during a search operation for militants, they came under fire, and in the retaliatory fire they killed a “foreign militant named Haidar and his associate Aamir Magray”.
They said Gul had provided logistical support to militants recently and was an “overground worker” for militants.
About Bhat, the police first said he was also a militant associate but the next day they told reporters at a press conference that he died in the crossfire.
According to witnesses and the families, Bhat and Gul, besides several other shopkeepers in the neighborhood, were assembled in a showroom next to the building owned by Bhat.
During the searches, the forces took Bhat to his building twice and brought him back. But the third time he and Gul were taken to the building, only to be declared dead later.
Bhat’s niece Saima, a journalist, had told Anadolu Agency that he was killed in cold blood and used as a human shield. Their killings evoked outrage, even by pro-India political parties whose leaders staged protests and issued condemnatory statements.
The families said they despaired of any justice but wanted the bodies returned to them for last rites. Bhat and Gul’s family members were on Wednesday night removed by the police from Press Enclave, an uptown area where offices of many media outlets are located. The families had staged a sit-in to demand the bodies.
Lateef Magray, the father of Aamir Magray, also denied the police claims about his son’s militancy links. He appealed to the government to hand him the body of his son and told reporters that his son “was killed under a conspiracy”.
In Ramban, Magray’s native place, more than 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Srinagar, the administration had imposed restrictions on the assembly of more than four people as it apprehended protests.
On Thursday, the government ordered an inquiry by a magistrate that is to be completed in 15 days. Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha said: “The government will take suitable action as soon as the report is submitted in a time-bound manner. The JK (Jammu and Kashmir) administration reiterates its commitment of protecting the lives of innocent civilians and it will ensure there is no injustice.”
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, New Delhi and Islamabad have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965, and 1971 – two of them over Kashmir.
Also, in the Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire took effect in 2003.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.
According to several human rights organizations, thousands have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989.
[Photo: An Indian female paramilitary soldier checks a bag of a Kashmiri woman during search operation in city center Lal Chowk in Srinagar, Kashmir on October 21, 2021. Photographer: Faisal Khan/ AA]
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