‘They Were Innocents’, Families Shout Outside PCR

  A wailing relative of one of the three killed youth pleads before cops outside PCR Srinagar| Photo Courtesy: Syed Shahriyar

Srinagar: Barely hours after police claimed to have killed three militants in an “encounter” in Lawaypora area of the Srinagar outskirts, the families of the three slain youth vouched for their innocence and accused the state forces of killing them in a “staged gunfight.”

The families of the three alleged militants appeared outside the Police control Room (PCR) here on Wednesday afternoon and claimed that their kin were not even remotely connected with militancy. The protesting family members said that two of the three killed youth had left their homes on Tuesday for some work.

The families as well as the police have identified the trio as Ajaz Maqbool Ganie and Ather Mushtaq of Pulwama and Zubair Ahmad Lone of Shopian. One among the killed youth is a policeman’s son.

“My brother left home on Tuesday to submit his form at the University. Around 3pm, he informed me that he will stay in Srinagar,” Ganie’s sister told Kashmir Observer.

She said her father—a policeman posted in Ganderbal district informed the family that their son had been killed in an encounter.

“We were shocked to know, how could this happen. He was living with us till yesterday. How can he become a militant overnight,” she said.

“He was at home for two months as he was not keeping well, I don’t know why the police were linking him with militants,” she added.

Ganie’s inconsolable grandfather Bashir Ahmad also expressed surprise over police claims and said that his grandson was a student, not a militant.

“He must have been brought down from Sumo and later killed in a stage managed encounter,” Ahmad said.

“Why you killed him. He was a student,” he said, while bursting into tears.

The family members of Athar Mushtaq also claimed that their son has been killed in a “fake encounter”.

“Why did you kill our kin, he was innocent, what was his fault,” said a family member protesting along with scores of relatives outside PCR.

Meanwhile, police have maintained that all the three youth were militants and killed in an encounter after turning down repeated offers for surrender.

In a statement issued here, a police spokesperson said that some families from South Kashmir came to the PCR and claimed them to be their wards.

“They have been sent to Ganderbal for further identification and participation in last rites in the presence of the Magistrate,” he added.

He also said that none among the three were not ‘listed’ militants but two among them were hardcore associates of militants.

“Pertinently, one of the two is a relative of top HM commander Rayees Kachroo who was killed in 2017. Reportedly, a third might have joined very recently. Generally parents don’t have an idea about the activities of their wards,” the police spokesperson said.

Giving an instance, he 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 about his activities. Several OGWs after committing crimes like grenade throwing & pistol shooting etc stay normally with their family,” he said.

“Police are investigating the case and after thorough investigation will come to the conclusion soon on merits,” he added.

The police spokesperson further said that the IGP Kashmir has requested the parents to keep close watch of their wards and keep strict vigil about their day to day activities to ensure that they may not indulge in any subversive or militant activities.

Mainstream Camp Demands Time-Bound Probe

Several mainstream parties, including National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and CPI (M) on Wednesday demanded a time bound probe into killing of three alleged militants in Lawaypora encounter

In a statement issued here, an NC spokesperson said that the versions of people and family pertaining to the killing of three people at an encounter site are contradictory, therefore the situation necessitates the constitution of a fact finding team that could reveal the circumstances that will probe the matter on a fast track basis.

“The police version is that the trio was militants who refused to surrender during the gunfight were killed, but the version of families of the slain is contradictory to that of the police version. It is for the government now to clear the ambiguity leading to the death of the three persons,” the NC spokesperson said.

“We have been hearing from government quarters that there would be zero tolerance for human rights violations but on ground such high-pitched claims emanating from government stand debunked in wake of such killings. Therefore we demand a thorough inquiry into the incident on behalf of my party. I also take this opportunity to express my unison with the bereaved families in their hour of grief and pain,” she added.

Taking to Twitter, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti echoed similar views and asked authorities to come clean on the claims made by the families.

 “Worrying that in the past few months after the Shopian fake encounter other families too in J&K have alleged that their sons were innocent & killed in a staged encounter. Authorities need to come clean on this,” she tweeted.

CPI (M) leader M Y Tarigami also called for a probe leading to the killing of the three alleged militants.

“The incident of killing of three persons in Hokersar area needs a judicial probe as the families of the slain persons have refuted the allegations of the security forces that they were militants,” he said.

“There are unverified reports that they were killed in a fake encounter. If true, this is shocking and must be probed by a sitting High Court judge. The circumstances in which the killings happened need to be thoroughly probed,” he added.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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