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Kashmir Families Allege Two Civilians Killed in Another ‘Controversial’ Military Operation
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Kashmir Families Allege Two Civilians Killed in Another ‘Controversial’ Military Operation

“I asked the forces why they killed my father. They laughed shamelessly.”

SRINAGAR — Nayfa Altaf, 14, was waiting for her father, Altaf Ahmad Bhat, to return home from his shop on Monday evening, when she saw people assembling outside her home, all wailing.

The intensity of the moment made her fearful, as prompted by her lived experience in a conflict zone. But the teenager fought her nerves on the chilly November night and kept praying for his safety.

A resident of Old Barzulla, Altaf would return home around 6 pm. But the late evening “gunfight” in the neighbouring Hyderpora had delayed his routine. This worried the whole Bhat family more.

And soon this worry turned into a reality and became a lingering woe as the family learned how Altaf’s shop, in his small double-storey complex, was in the line of fire.

Nayfa, along with her sister, brother, mother and cousins, waited anxiously till her uncle received a call. She recalls the moment with numbing expressions. Suddenly her prayers had become louder, just like her throbbing heart. While his uncle was on the call, tears rolled down his cheeks. The caller conveyed the news of her father’s death.

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How It Unfolded

On Monday evening, Jammu and Kashmir police said that a “gunfight” ensued in the uptown Hyderpora area of Srinagar city. Police initially said that two militants were killed in the “gunfight” while the building owner, Altaf Ahmad Bhat, who, police said, was injured in the militant fire, succumbed to injuries. Kashmir Zone Police, quoting a “source and digital evidence”, said Altaf has been working as militant associate.

At the spot in Hyderpora, eyewitnesses said, scores of counterinsurgents had cordoned the area including Altaf’s complex and the nearby buildings around 5:45 PM on November 15. Some of them, they said, were dressed in Pherans.

Encircled in red: Altaf’s complex. Green: Computer and Mobile repairing shop rented out. Blue: Dr. Mudasir’s office. White: shop where Altaf would sit. / MI Photo by Mumin Gul

Immediately, eyewitnesses said, the shopkeepers, building owners and other employees were assembled inside the Royal Enfield showroom, around 50 meters north of Altaf’s building.

Within minutes around 40-50 people were inside the showroom, including Altaf, and the slain, Dr. Mudasir Gul.

The other slain, Aamir worked as an office boy in Mudasir’s construction business office, housed on the first floor of Altaf’s complex, on rent. The building also houses an IT solutions shop.

Nazir Ahmad, who runs an iron welding shop situated between Altaf’s shopping complex and Royal Enfield showroom, said that some moments after assembled inside the showroom, a cop came searching for the owner of the building.

Royal Enfield showroom, 50 metres north of slain Altaf’s complex, where around 40 people were held by police while the “operation” was being conducted. / MI Photo by Muhammad Raafi

“Scared, Altaf asked Dr. Mudasir to accompany him,” Nazir said, adding the duo were taken as “human shield” and returned in a few minutes.

Notably, the “human shield” allegation first surfaced in a midnight tweet sent out by Altaf’s niece and senior journalist, Saima Bhat.

“Again, a policeman came looking for Altaf. Again, Altaf took Dr. Mudasir along and the duo returned after a few minutes,” Nazir recalled.



While this all was happening, those inside the Royal Enfield showroom heard sporadic bullets being fired. Nazir said they could not make out from which direction the bullets were being fired.

Another eyewitness who runs a shop towards the south of Altaf’s complex, on the other side of the road, said that they also heard sporadic fire.

Meanwhile, another eyewitness, who work as a casual employee in a business complex, almost 100 meters towards the south of Altaf’s complex, said all this while Aamir was with him and the two were puffing cigarettes.

While the duo was curious about happenings around the spot, the eyewitness said, Aamir was shortly called and taken away by the armed forces.

Inside The Showroom

After a burst of gunshots, Nazir said, a policeman received a message on his wireless wherein he was told to announce to those held inside the showroom, not to panic.

“After Altaf and Dr. Mudasir were taken out the third time, we were informed about the message regarding the gunshots which we had heard as well,” Nazir said.

Altaf’s nephew, who worked at his uncle’s shop, was also among the people held inside the showroom. He said that he waited curiously for his uncle’s return while others kept consoling him.

Altaf Is Dead

Abdul Majeed, Altaf’s elder brother, said that around 5:30 PM on Monday he heard that there was a cordon around his brother’s complex. He immediately drove to the spot. “I stopped about 100 feet from the spot and witnessed everything unfold,” he said.

Majeed said that he saw his brother and Dr. Mudasir being taken to the complex from the showroom every time. While Majeed was waiting, he heard a burst being fired.

To calm himself down, he scrolled through his Facebook timeline and was shocked to see pictures of his brother’s body doing rounds on the social networking site.

“Altaf is dead,” he cried.

Growing impatient, Majeed, braving all odds, reached the spot and asked the policemen to let him see his brother’s body.

“They were talking and watching the drone doing rounds in the air,” he said.

At his home, Majeed would shortly cry like a baby: “They made my nieces and nephew orphans. May my Allah make their children orphan!”

Police Claims and Family Denial

To address what he called “lot of rumors”, Kashmir police chief, Inspector General Vijay Kumar, Tuesday said in a press conference in Srinagar, that Altaf had rented three rooms to Mudasir who was running an “unauthorized” call centre from the rented space.

“One room was being used by the militants where we have made recoveries too,” the IGP claimed.

He said the police have recovered two pistols, three magazines, six phones including four from the alleged “hideout”. “The call centre had six cabins where we have recovered six computers and other medical supplies,” he said.

While mourning the loss of his sibling, Majeed said that Altaf had rented the second storey of the building to Dr Mudasir and another room to a computer and mobile phone repairing shop, Elite IT Solutions.

Dr. Mudasir a doctor or an OGW?

The IGP said that Dr. Mudasir aided one of the militants during a recent attack in which a policeman was shot in the neck in Jamalata area of Downtown Srinagar. “Mudasir drove him back from the spot and sheltered him at his office. He was working as a businessman but ran a militant module and harbored militants.”

The IGP also regretted Mudasir’s killing saying that he was killed in a crossfire. “We tried saving him but it was difficult during the gunfight. However, he was involved in militancy.”

In Srinagar’s Press Enclave, however, Dr. Mudasir’s sister said that he had returned home just a day before from a business trip in Jammu.

“He returned on Sunday and on Monday morning, he brought biscuits for kids and left for office,” the sister said. As the relatives of Dr. Mudasir wailed, they demanded the return of his body.

Return the Bodies:

“They killed him in cold blood in his office,” his relative said. “And now they are denying his body. His father and mother, his wife and kids would be consoled, if they return the body.”

Meanwhile, Altaf’s daughter, Nayfa said that when she asked the policemen why they killed her father, the policemen laughed. “They laughed shamelessly. How would have I responded,” she asked.

Pleading the authorities to return the body of the slain businessman, Nayfa and her uncle Majeed, said that the body should be returned on a humanitarian basis.

“I challenge the governor that if it is proven that my brother was involved in any militant activity, then I am ready to be hanged in the middle of the city,” Majeed said.

Altaf was Gracious

Slain Altaf’s former classmate and neighbour, who had turned out at the “gunfight” spot to look around for his “dead friend”, was shattered.

“Altaf was a gem. He was gracious,” he recalled.

“I will never believe the police version. They are justifying the cold-blooded murder,” he said.

Altaf ran a shop in a highly secured zone and every day CRPF and Army were deployed around his shop, he said. “Many times, he would serve tea to the cops. My last wish was to see his body, which unfortunately has been denied.” 

The Presser

At the Srinagar presser, the IGP said that around midday on Monday, police received input about the presence of two to three militants near the National Highway in Hyderpora.

“We did not know about the exact location following which the owner of the house was called and the person who had rented part of it was also called. There was a militant present there who did not open the room and began to fire indiscriminately with a pistol,” the IGP said, adding that the search party fired back and an encounter ensued.

“Both Altaf and Mudasir received bullet injuries and succumbed. Two other militants were also killed in the encounter, one of which was identified as Bilal Bhai aka Hyder, a foreigner. The other militant is a resident of the Ramban-Banihal area.”

The IGP said that the police did not hand over the body to the families of Altaf and Mudassir fearing law and order issues. “All the four have been buried in the Handwara area of North Kashmir today morning,” he said.

Hurriyat Reacts

Meanwhile, all Parties Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, condemned the “gruesome killing of civilians” at Hyderpora.

What makes this tragedy more heart wrenching, Hurriyat in a statement said, is that the families are being denied the bodies of their loved ones.

APHC said that another civilian Dr. Mudasir Gul of Rawalpora is being conveniently labelled as “OGW” to “justify his cold-blooded killing”.

Hurriyat said that the silence of the international community and civil society in India in the face of “acute violation of human rights by the state”, has made the life of people living in Kashmir hell.

‘Military State and Demands of Probe

After the four killings and the claims of the families, many political leaders have demanded an impartial probe into the killings. While a senior political leader said that Kashmir has turned into a military state.

Three times legislator and senior Jammu and Kashmir National Conference leader Aga Ruhullah Mehdi tweeted: “Two non-combatants killed in encounter. Even if the cops were a Supreme Court themselves, the word ‘supported’ does not justify it. I have been saying that Kashmir has become a police state, but I was wrong. It’s actually a military state now. (SIC).”

A former professor of law, Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, said that unless proved beyond doubt before a Judicial magistrate of appropriate rank, mere allegations of links can’t be justification for the annihilation of a human being.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said that it is imperative that a credible judicial enquiry is done to bring out the truth and put an end to “this rampant culture of impunity”.

She said that using innocent civilians as human shields, getting them killed in cross-firing and then conveniently labelling them as OGWs is part of the government of India’s rulebook now.

People’s Conference chairman and former separatist turned mainstream politician Sajad Lone said that in the midst of conflicting claims in the Hyderpora encounter the least “we deserve is a transparent description of what happened by a neutral institution”. “This is neither the first time nor the last time.”

Kashmir’s former communist lawmaker, MY Tarigami also demanded a judicial probe into the civilian killings. “We demand a judicial probe into the civilian killings of Hyderpora and urge the administration to immediately hand over their bodies to respective families for last rites.”

Tarigami said that the people of Kashmir are going through a painful period. “What will be the version of the authorities but, the family of these two civilians are continuously claiming that they are innocent and they were not involved. The government’s claim is that they are upholding the law but we are witnessing a violation of law instead of it being upheld.”

Mayor of Srinagar city and Apni party leader, who was earlier part of National Conference and People’s Conference, said that grave and serious allegations are emerging from the Hyderpora encounter. He requested Governor Manoj Sinha to order an impartial and time-bound probe to ascertain the truth. “Hope the truth prevails. The families of the two civilians should be heard and heard dispassionately.”

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