‘For The Sake of This Child, Return Us Bodies’

Dr. Mudasir Gul’s baby daughter drew everyone’s attention at Press Enclave during Wednesday’s protest. Despite sucking pacifier, she couldn’t maintain calm amid cries for justice.

Text by Nisar Bhat

Photos by Abid Bhat

BRAVING cold and city-centre commotion, two Kashmiri families whose members were killed in Hyderpora “shootout” arrived in Srinagar’s Press Enclave Wednesday to protest and demand bodies of their fallen.

Holding posters and chanting justice slogans, the families reiterated their demand amid full media glare.

Mohammad Altaf Bhat of Old Barzulla and Dr. Mudasir Gul of Kanipora were killed in Hyderpora “shootout” on November 15. Police termed the duo as “militant associates” and said they were killed in a “crossfire”.

Bhat owned the building in which Dr. Gul ran his IT Solutions Shops termed as a “hitech hideout” by police. Along with the “foreign militant” named Haider, the police said a “hybrid militant from Banihal” named Aamir was also killed in the Hyderpora “encounter”. Aamir served as Dr. Gul’s office boy and is the son a former counterinsurgent from Gool.

The families of the slain civilians said that they were used as “human shields” before shot dead.

“Whatever has been done can’t be undone now,” said Bhat’s family member. “But at least, we deserve his body.”

Among the protesters was Dr. Gul’s toddler daughter. Oblivious of her orphanhood, the girl became the face of Wednesday’s protest.

“For the sake of this child,” a relative holding the crying baby in his hands said, “return us bodies.”

The demand for bodies started in the midnight of Monday itself when Bhat’s niece and senior journalist of Kashmir, Saima Bhat, tweeted that her uncle was used as a “human shield” before shot dead. By the morning, the demand amid the probe calls pitched by political leaders became a collective cry.

Kashmir’s police chief, Vijay Kumar, in whose time as IGP last year, the bodies of combatants and their associates were denied “for the fear of viral spread”, said the bodies weren’t given to the families for the fear of “law and order” situation in Kashmir and were buried in Handwara.

But the family members of Bhat and Dr. Gul are relentlessly pursuing their case, asking authorities to hand over the bodies on “humanitarian grounds”.

However, as the authorities are still unmoved over the demand of the families, protest on Wednesday saw many prominent faces from political and social circles standing up in solidarity with the families and endorsing their demand.

Both the slain civilians are survived by young widows and small orphans. Their daughters are at the forefront, demanding the bodies of their fathers.

But while they protest, police has constituted SIT under DIG Central to probe the “hitech hideout” at Hyderpora. A Srinagar-based army commander while questioning the IT solutions centre likened it with “white-collar terrorism”. However, the protesting families are turning down these claims.

Among the protesters was the young widow of Dr. Gul. She was struggling to keep her toddler calm while demanding the body of her slain spouse in the press colony.

According to the family, the doctor had returned home a day before his killing. But the police said he used to ferry militants and shelter them in his IT office in Bhat’s building. However, his family is terming down this version.

Before these two families, the Press Enclave witnessed the same demand when the father of a Pulwama boy killed in the HMT encounter made fervent appeals for his son’s body. His repeated demand was turned down.

However, despite the state maintaining tough posturing on the issue for the sake of “law and order” in the valley, Bhat’s family is asserting that they won’t backtrack from their demand.

Amid all this, Dr. Gul’s baby daughter drew everyone’s attention at Press Enclave during Wednesday’s protest. Despite sucking pacifier, she couldn’t maintain calm amid cries for justice.

On Tuesday, the similar crying images of Bhat’s daughters went viral on social media. They questioned the manner in which their father was killed and demanded his body.

But while the case is slowly snowballing into a crisis, there’s no clarification from Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha, despite petitioned by various political leaders, including Sajad Lone of Peoples Conference and Srinagar Mayor, Junaid Matoo.

To intensify their campaign, the family on Wednesday evening even held a candle-light protest amid cold before dispersed by police in a midnight raid.

Even though many are expecting some change in the official guards, the image of the crying baby has already hit everyone hard.

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