Srinagar: Normal life in the Kashmir valley was disrupted here on Friday as people in the region observed a shutdown against the killing of civilians during the Hyderpora shoot-out earlier this week.
All shops, offices and business establishments remained shut in the wake of the strike called by Hurriyat groups led by incarcerated leaders Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Masarat Alam, who called the shutdown in solidarity with the families of the victims of the Hyderpora incident where four persons were killed by government forces earlier on November 15.
Key markets in old city areas of Srinagar and the commercial hub of Lal Chowk were also shut because of the strike as public transport remained off-roads.
Separatist groups and Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association had called for a strike on Friday to protest what they termed as "inhumanity" in view of the Hyderpora incident and the arrest of their political leadership. The groups also advocated for the return of the bodies of the slain civilians killed in Hyderpora.
Police authorities faced serious questions from political parties, rights groups and civil society members for their role in the encounter after families of at least three of the four killed in the incident accused the slain were used as "human shield". They also refuted the claims made by the police that the civilians had any links to militancy.
The families of slain Altaf Ahmad and Dr Mudasir Gul held a demonstration in Srinagar demanding the return of their bodies, buried by the authorities far away in North Kashmir's Handwara, about 100 km away.
Funeral of Muhammad Altaf in Barzulla Srinagar.Photo By Kamran Yousuf
Following the outrage, the UT administration led by Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha ordered a probe into the incident. The administration promised a "suitable action" as soon as the report was submitted in a time-bound manner. The bodies of the two victims were handed back over to their respective families after exhumation in the wee hours of Friday.
Tension has peaked in Kashmir as a fresh spate of violence has stoked fears of escalation. Since October, the killings have increased, including the target killings of civilians by militant groups. There has been an increase in militancy-related violence, especially in Srinagar city, which is now witnessing an increase in the presence of police and armed forces. The authorities have increased security measures by carrying out on-spot checking in market areas and intense search operations in and around the city.
The People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a group of regional political parties advocating for the restoration of Article 370, has sent a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind seeking action against those involved in the Hyderpora incident.
"Needless to say that such unfortunate incidents widen the gulf between the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the Government of India and, therefore, are to be avoided at any cost," a letter from Dr Farooq Abdullah read.
Many are now demanding the return of the body of the third civilian, Amir Magrey, who was termed a militant by the police, a charge refuted by his family.
"Aamir Magrey also killed in Hyderpora encounter is yet to be given a decent burial by his mourning family. The fact that these families are begging for mortal remains instead of asking for justice reflects their lack of faith in the system. His body must be returned immediately," People’s Democratic Party's (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti tweeted.
The All Parties Hurriyat Conference in its latest statement has also demanded the return the body of Amir, a resident of Gool while calling for an end to violence.
“APHC asks the authorities to desist from the criminal practice of ceasing bodies and denying their families the right to a proper burial. It is abhorrently inhuman. It calls on the authorities to stop the wanton violence in Kashmir,” the statement read.