“Please return my Mudasir’s body. One last time, I want to hold him and kiss his cheeks and forehead.”
SRINAGAR — The families of the two slain civilians, Muhammad Altaf Bhat and Dr Mudasir Gul, killed in Hyderpora military operation on Monday were dragged out of the Srinagar’s press enclave late Wednesday night where they were holding a sit-in protest demonstration demanding the return of bodies.
A family member told Mountain Ink that a posse of police appeared in the enclave and dragged those on protest, into their van. A lone female member present at the protest site, Saima Bhat, who is a senior journalist and niece of one of the slain Muhammad Altaf Bhat was taken to Kothi Bagh Police station. The protesters were, however, allowed to go home, shortly after the detention.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Lone and Ruhullah Mehdi, have termed the midnight raids on protestors as ‘outrageous’, ‘insensitive’ and ‘ugly’ making ‘General Dyer proud.’
For the past two days, the families of three slain including Aamir Magray, a resident of Gool in mountainous Ramban district—200 kilometres south of Srinagar—have been reiterating that their kin were civilians and were killed in “cold blood”.
Aamir’s father, Lateef Magray, in a released video, said that on the morning of Tuesday he received the news of his son’s killing. In disbelief, Magray along with some ‘Sarpanches’ rushed to Srinagar.
In Srinagar, Magray met senior police officials and demanded the body of his slain son. “They didn’t show us any pictures of the dead body and said the body cannot be handed over to the family.”
Pertinently, the senior Magray has killed a militant in 2005 with a stone and is since then under state protection. “We had to migrate from our home for 11 years. I raised my kids with difficulty and kept their locations secret. Today, the result of the sacrifice is that an Indian who killed a ‘terrorist’ with a stone, his son has been killed and branded a ‘terrorist’,” Magray said.
Mushtaq Ahmad, a relative and Sarpanch of the area where Amir’s family lives said that there is no record of Aamir being a militant or involved in any such activity in the past.
“This is the award for my loyalty,” screamed Magray, “I’m afraid that the day will come when they’ll kill me as well and declare me a militant.”
Magray has received an award from the Indian army for killing the militant.
Mohammad Saleem, an Ex-Panch said the killing of Amir is a “cold-blooded murder”. Saleem said that the police should present the proof of Aamir’s involvement in militancy. “If they have CCTV footage, they should show us that as well.”
In Srinagar’s press enclave, Dr Mudasir’s second wife, Humaira wailed as she tightly held on to her 18-months-old daughter, Inaya. “My daughter keeps asking me about her father,” she cried, “What should I tell her?”
Humaira said that if the charges levelled against Mudasir are proven, she is ready to take a bullet for Mudasir’s activities. “Please return my Mudasir’s body to me. One last time, I want to hold him and kiss his cheeks and forehead,” Humaira sobbed.
She said that while there was a massive outrage after the killing of a pandit doctor, Makhan Lal Bindroo, nobody is speaking out for my Doctor husband. “Was he a lesser mortal, wasn’t he a doctor,” she asked.
Rubbishing the claims that Mudasir ran a “hideout”, Humaira said that Mudasir was operating a construction business and a call centre from the hired premises. She said that police claims about recovering a US map from his office as “something high tech” defy logic. “What else should a call centre catering to the United States, have in its office,” she asked.
On late Wednesday evening, while the Bhat and Mudasir’s family were protesting in Press Enclave, a senior police officer approached the Bhat family and told them that Altaf’s body would be returned to them on Friday. However, the Bhat family asked the officer to make the same assurance in writing. The officer denied it.
“How would we trust them,” Saima asked. Since Monday night the Bhat family met a number of police officials, and civil administration officers demanding the return of the body. “The deputy commissioner assured us that the body will be returned if the police assure him that there would be no law and order situation,” Saima said.
On Tuesday, the Bhat family met the IGP who assured them that he would call them back. The call never came, she said. “The IGP’s tone was reassuring, and we are hopeful,” she said. The family also met Private Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor in Church Lane. Saima said that the secretary also assured the family that the issue would be taken with the Governor.
On Thursday, Saima again met the IGP. “The IGP assured that the body would be returned,” Saima said; quoting the IGP, “We are holding a meeting and will let you know shortly.”
Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir administration led by the New Delhi appointed Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Thursday ordered a magisterial probe into the operation.
“A magisterial inquiry by an officer of ADM rank has been ordered in Hyderpora encounter,” the office of the lieutenant governor tweeted.
“Govt will take suitable action as soon as a report is submitted in a time-bound manner. JK admin reiterates commitment to protecting lives of innocent civilians & it will ensure there is no injustice [SIC].”
The Bhat family while reacting to the magisterial inquiry said that the priority of the family is to get the body of slain Altaf back. “Probe is secondary,” Saima said.
A senior advocate, Altaf Khan, said that the government should be asked how many magisterial inquiries have been made public in the last 30 years. “First the bodies should be handed over to the families, then we can talk about inquiries.” “It is illegal to retain dead bodies,” he said.
All the mainstream political parties and the Hurriyat Conference have demanded the return of bodies to the families for the burial in their ancestral graveyards.
Meanwhile, both the factions of the Hurriyat Conference have called for a complete shutdown across Kashmir on Friday to protest against the killings.
The Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said 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 shutdown on Friday, November 19.
A statement issued by Hurriyat Conference led by Masarat Alam Bhat appealed to the people to “organize mass funeral prayers in absentia for the four civilians and hold peaceful protest rallies against the brutal killings after congregational Friday prayers.”
“Complete shutdown must be observed on Friday, and the people must march towards the respective houses of the slain,” the statement said.
Muhammad Raafi is a desk editor at the Mountain Ink. In about eight years of his career, he has reported for FT, Vice News, Al Jazeera English, TRT World, New Frame, The Wire and Article-14 among others.