Jammu: PDP President Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday led a protest here against the civilian killings by government forces, and demanded handing over of bodies of the deceased to their families.
The former chief minister said since the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been in force, there has been no accountability for the killings of the innocents.
Holding a placard that read Stop killing us, probe Hyderpora killings, end impunity and handover bodies to families , Mehbooba, along with party activists and leaders, staged a protest against these killings outside the party's Gandhi Nagar headquarters.
A strong posse of policemen stopped the protesters from moving towards the main road.
Mehbooba told reporters that the families of the slain civilians are holding protests in Srinagar and demanding handover of their bodies.
“This cruel government is not even handing over the bodies after killing people. They (BJP) want to convert this nation of Gandhi, Nehru, and Ambedkar into a country of Godse. What else can I say?,” the former chief minister said.
Asked about the IGP's claim of there being digital evidence against those killed, she said: “If they had prior evidence, why did the police not arrest them, as they have been doing on a daily basis.”
“Whenever anybody gets killed in their firing, they dub him an Over Ground worker, and that is wrong,” she said, adding, “Since the AFSPA has been in force, there has been no accountability and no one's been answerable.”
“They are innocent civilians and their families are denied even performing their last rites,” said Mehbooba.
Referring to a previous incident of fake encounter in which three youths were killed, she said “the security agencies made the claim of having digital evidence even then, but the reality is that they have no evidence.”
Three orchard labourers were killed in a staged encounter in Amshipora village of Shopian on July 18, 2020.
In another incident this January, Athar Mushtaq, a class 11 student, was killed along with two other youths in Lawaypora, Srinagar. Mushtaq's father disputed the claim that his son was a militant and demanded an SIT probe into the matter.
Mehbooba is scheduled to return to Srinagar later in the day after completing her five-day tour of Jammu.
Meanwhile, National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah said the civilians were killed because they were put in harm's way.
“The police admit they took the building owner (Altaf) & the tenant (Gul) in to the building & used them to knock on doors. How then can these people be termed as militants? They are civilians who died because they were put in harm's way,” Abdullah tweeted.
He said “to vilify them as militants or OGWs is bad enough but to take the bodies away & forcibly bury them in North Kashmir is a crime against humanity” and that “the bodies must be returned to the families so they can be buried. It's the only just thing & it's the only humanitarian thing to do.”
Meanwhile, the NC MP Farooq Abdullah sought the intervention of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha in handing over the bodies of two civilians.
In a tweet on its party handle, the NC said its party president and MP Farooq Abdullah has spoken to Sinha and reiterated his demand for an impartial probe into the civilian killings.
"He also sought the LG's intervention in handing over the bodies to their kin," the party said.
The NC said the Lt Governor has assured Abdullah to look into the demands of the victim families.
Meanwhile Hurriyat Conference termed the killings as a “brazen act of violence” and called for “mass funeral prayers in absentia.”
APHC also said it “strongly condemns the extra-judicial killing of four civilians” and expressed solidarity with the bereaved families. They also urged the Kashmiri diaspora to register protests worldwide.
Awami Itehad Party (AIP) leader Sheeban Ashai, who joined the protest by victim families in Srinagar, alleged the civilians were used as human shields by the police.
“I want to ask LG (Manoj Sinha) and India's Home Minister Amit Shah that two innocent civilians were killed under their watch,” he said. “How were they killed in the crossfire?”
Sheeban questioned the use of civilians during military operations. “Why were they not provided with protective gear when the forces took them for searches? That means they were used as human shields. That is the biggest loophole in the police story,” he said.
Sheeban alleged that police have started a new trend since August 5, 2019 when the Centre revoked J&K's special status of “picking anyone from his house, jailing him or killing him in an encounter.”
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