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Mystery over 'encounter deaths' continues

By Shujaat Bukhari

PANCHAL THAN (Anantnag), APRIL 8. The controversy over the ``encounter'' of March 25 here in which authorities claimed to have killed five ``militants'' responsible for Chatti Singhpora massacre, has deepened with the relatives confirming that the bodies were of their five relatives missing since March 24. The District authorities have handed over the bodies to them subject to DNA tests.

The Deputy Commissioner, Anantnag, who was supervising the process of exhuming the bodies here, confirmed that all the five bodies had been handed over to the relatives on the basis of their identification through clothes and some parts of bodies. However, he said that these bodies are with them on ``suprednama'' (entrust deed) with the condition that correctness of identification would depend on DNA results as the bodies were disfigured and charred and were beyond recognition. An official spokesman in Srinagar said that police had taken cognisance of the matter for further action.

The process of exhuming the bodies started on Thursday afternoon after the assurance of the Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah on Wednesday during his visit to the area. A team of forensic doctors from Srinagar Medical College reached the Panchal Than area and started exhuming the bodies from Vuzkhah, Sanglan and Chogam villages, around 95 km from Srinagar. The ``encounter'' led to the controversy that the five persons killed in it were allegedly civilians arrested from different areas of the district. The Authorities claimed that all of them were foreigners and responsible for the killing of 35 Sikhs on March 20, and the bodies were also charred beyond recognition due to which the bodies could not be identified immediately. The five persons arrested were Juma Khan and another Juma Khan from Brariangan, Mohammad Yousyf Malik and Bashir Ahmed Bhat from Halan and Zahoor Ahmed Dalal from Moominabad (Anantnag).

As the authorities insisted on their claim, the population was up in arms in support of their claim. The protests started in Anantnag district and other parts of valley. However, the district authorities even did not entertain the FIR lodged by the relatives. The situation turned volatile when the SOG of J & K Police and CRPF fired on procession in Brakpora village in which eight persons got killed and 14 others injured. Curfew was clamped in the town and the situation highly tense.

However, the Chief Minister apprehending more trouble resorted to damage control exercise and ordered the shifting of DIG police South Kashmir range, DC and SSP Anantnag and also announced the exhumation of bodies to bring the truth to the fore. In addition to it an inquiry commission was appointed headed by Justice S. R. Pandian, a retired Supreme Court Judge to inquire into Brakpora killings.

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