Srinagar: The families of two militants, who had been killed in an encounter with security forces on Friday, alleged that authorities in the region have prevented them for carrying out the last rites of their kin. They say it is despite their repeated efforts to reach out to the administration in South Kashmir's Shopian district.
The slain militants, identified as Ashiq Ahmad Magray and Asif Ahmad Dar, from Ganavpora and Bungam villages of Shopian respectively, were affiliated with the proscribed outfit Hizbul Mujahideen. The duo were killed in a gunfight near Dairoo Keegam area of Shopian. The families of both the local militants claimed that the police and civil administration have been ignoring them and kept them waiting for a day on the pretext of the militants not having been identified.
A relative of Asif said the militant called his home during the gunfight and informed them that he had been trapped in a security cordon laid by Special Operation Group (SOG) of J&K Police, the Army and the CRPF. “He made the call just before he was killed and we even reported the call to the police but even then they kept saying they are yet to be identified,” he said.
Ghulam Nabi, uncle of the other slain militant from far-flung Ganavpora, told NewsClick that they have been waiting outside the Shopian Deputy Commissioner's office since Friday. He said they spent hours there for a response, but it was not forthcoming. “They kept us waiting in the rain for hours. And the official never met us yesterday. In the evening, he told us to come back tomorrow but when we went there today, the security did not allow us in,” Nabi said.
Nabi added that they were being misled by the authorities who said that the militants had not been identified. “Their pictures were widely circulated on social media while we were being misled,” he alleged.
Both, the Deputy Commisioner and the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Shopian, did not respond to repeated calls and messages.
As the entire region, including Shopian, has been under a lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, tensions mounted in the area with scores of incidents of violence and protests were reported after the encounter ended. The protesters, according to local eye-witnesses who wished to stay anonymous fearing reprisal, clashed with police and paramilitary forces posted in the area. “What increased the tension was the report that the militants have been taken to a distant village in North Kashmir and buried there. This caused a flare-up and even though there was no confirmation, it seems that the situation is likely to worsen," a South Kashmir-based journalist told NewsClick.
While the bodies of foreigners, mostly Pakistani nationals, are buried anywhere in the region, irrespective of the locality in which they are killed by the authorities, the bodies of local recruits are usually handed over to their families for last rites. This is the first time in the recent past that the authorities have not handed over the body of a local militant to the families for last rites.
Last week, scores of locals violated the ongoing lockdown to attend the funeral of a slain militant in North Kashmir's Sopore area, following which the J&K police lodged an FIR against them.
The two families from Shopian, however, claimed they even informed the authorities that they would not allow any such congregation. "We are ready to involve only six persons for the whole burial process and we were even willing to sign a bond in front of the police. I had also suggested that we will make an announcement from the local mosque for people to avoid the funeral. Despite all that, we were left empty-handed," Ghulam Nabi said.