The family of Dr Mudasir Gul and Ataf Bhat – two businessmen killed during a controversial encounter in J&K’s Hyderpora this week – braved the winter chill to hold a protest and a candlelight vigil on Wednesday to demand the return of their bodies, so relatives can give them a proper burial.
Among those who protested were elderly persons, and they held placards demanding justice. Family members told NDTV a police officer visited them and assured them that the bodies will be returned.
“The officer said the body will be given and asked us to leave. We told her, ‘give it in writing the bodies will be returned’. She said she will get back after talking to a senior officer,” a family member said.
A distraught Humaira Mudasir, who is Dr Gul’s wife, said: “I am only asking for the dead body of my husband… I don’t need anything else. I want to see his face. I want to touch his feet and seek forgiveness. I want to see him one last time and give a proper burial to my husband.”
Humaira was accompanied by her 18-month-old baby.
In a heartbreaking video that has been widely circulated online, Altaf Bhat’s 13-year-old daughter tearfully describes the moment she learnt about her father’s death. She talks about how some policemen started laughing when she asked them why her father had been killed.
Altaf Bhat, a prominent local businessmen, and Dr Mudasir Gul, a dental surgeon, were killed during a controversial anti-terrorist op in Hyderpora on Monday. Police initially claimed they were shot by terrorists but later claimed they may have been killed in the crossfire.
The police also claimed both men were “terror associates” – a charge that provoked a furious reaction from family members and critics of the J&K administration.
The families have alleged Mr Bhat and Dr Gul were killed in cold blood, as was a third person – Amir Magray – whom the police called a “hybrid terrorist” – working as a helper in the doctor’s office.
Magray’s father, Abdul Latief Magray, has insisted his son was killed in a staged encounter.
Magray is a known anti-terrorism crusader from a remote village in Ramban district, who made headlines after killing a terrorist with a stone in 2005. He is the recipient of an Army citation and has spoken about how he raised his children “by keeping them at secret locations”.
“The denial of the body of my son is the reward of our fight against terrorists. My home is still guarded by security forces – tomorrow they can kill me and claim that I was a militant,” he said sadly.
Police said two pistols were recovered from the site of the encounter in Hyderpora.
All bodies were buried in Handwara, which is over 100 km from Srinagar, after the cops refused to hand over the bodies due to “law and order problems”.
The entire incident has triggered an angry reaction from mainstream political leaders, including National Conference chief Omar Abdullah. The former J&K Chief Minister said denying the family the right to bury their dead constituted a crime against humanity.
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. 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.
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) November 17, 2021
Another ex-Chief Minister, PDP boss Mehbooba Mufti. staged a protest of her own in Jammu, demanding justice and an impartial inquiry into the killings. Her party said she wanted to join the families at their protest site but police denied her permission to do so.