Four persons, including an overground worker (one who supports militants) and a civilian, were killed during an encounter in Srinagar’s Hyderpora on Monday evening, the police said on Tuesday amid allegations that it was a “staged encounter” and one victim was used as “a human shield”.
“Two militants, including a foreign militant identified as Haider, and his local associate, possibly from Banihal area of Jammu, were killed. We have called in a family from Banihal to identify the militant,” Inspector-General of Police Vijay Kumar stated.
Building owner Altaf Bhat, a Barzulla resident, who also had an office in the multi-storey structure, was killed in the crossfire. “It is not sure whether he was hit by the militants’ or the security forces’ bullet. Militants were carrying pistols. The cause of the death would be clear after investigation,” Mr. Kumar said.
The police identified the fourth slain person as Mudasir Gull, a dentist-turned-businessman from Srinagar’s Rawalpora. “He [Gull] may have provided shelter to Haider and his associates. He was harbouring and ferrying militants. Mudasir was also involved in ferrying Haider from the site of the [Sunday] attack at Jamalata Srinagar, where a policeman was injured after a bullet hit him. He was an overground worker and was directly involved in harbouring militants,” Mr. Kumar said.
Two pistols, two magazines, half-a-dozen mobile phones and a few computers were recovered at the encounter site, the police said.
A special investigation team would probe the modus operandi of the hi-tech hideout at Hyderpora. “It will investigate if the phones and computers recovered from the site had links with foreign countries, including the U.S.,” Mr. Kumar said.
Body not handed over
Due to apprehension of a law and order problem, the body of the civilian was not handed over to the family for last rites, he added.
The families of Bhat and Dr. Gull, however, said they were “innocent civilians” killed in “a staged encounter”. “Eyewitnesses told us that my father was taken into the building [at Hyderpora] thrice. He was allowed to go twice but killed the third time. There was no encounter. He was killed for being a Muslim. We just demand that his body is returned to us so that me and my younger sister can see him one last time,” Bhat’s daughter said. A relative of Bhat alleged that he was used as a “human shield”.Bhat’s and Gull’s families held street protests, demanding the handing over of bodies for the final rites. “My son is a doctor and has no link with militants. Why was he killed,” asked Dr. Gull’s mother. Gull owned a shop in the building.
Parties, including the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, sought an independent judicial probe into the incident.
Peoples Conference chief Sajad Lone stated, “In the midst of conflicting claims in the encounter, the least we deserve is a transparent description of what happened by a neutral institution.”
Incarcerated Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said the impunity provided to the forces was all the more heart-wrenching. “The families have been pleading and protesting on roads for the bodies,” he said.
The silence of the international community and the civil society of India in the face of “violation of human rights has made the life of people living in Kashmir hell”.
He added, “We demand that the bodies be immediately returned to their families to get a closure.”