Jammu & Kashmir

Hyderpora encounter: Bodies of civilians exhumed and returned to their kin

Published : November 19, 2021 12:32 IST

People carry the coffin of Mohammad Altaf Bhat during his funeral procession at Barzulla in Srinagar November 19. Photo: S. Irfan/PTI

The Hyderpora encounter was shrouded in controversy since it took place on November 15.

Amid sit-in demonstrations by Kashmir’s top politicians and civil society members and swelling anger on social media, the Jammu and Kashmir administration returned the bodies of two civilians killed in Hyderpora encounter to their kin late on Thursday night.

The Jammu and Kashmir police said the bodies of Altaf Bhat and Mudasir Gul were exhumed from a graveyard in Handwara in North Kashmir on Thursday night, where they had been buried by the authorities, and taken back to Srinagar and handed over to their respective families.

The bodies were handed over to the families after midnight (intervening night of Thursday-Friday). Whereas Altaf Bhat’s body was buried at his family’s ancestral graveyard in Srinagar’s Barzulla, Gul’s mortal remains were taken to Pirbagh graveyard, also in Srinagar, for burial. Emotional scenes were witnessed at the residences of both Bhat and Gul, with images and videos of inconsolable women and children flooding social media.

This was the first time since the eruption of the COVID-19 pandemic that anyone’s body buried by the police was exhumed and returned to the family.

The Hyderpora encounter was shrouded in controversy since it took place on Monday, with several newspapers reporting eyewitness accounts of the slain civilians used as human-shield by the police. Among the four killed in the encounter at a commercial complex at Hyderpora in Srinagar were two militants—one foreign militant named Hiader and his local Kashmiri associate from Banihal—and two civilians, Bhat and Gul. Bhat owned the complex whereas Gul had rented a shop at the top floor where militants were reported to be hiding. Gul was a medical practitioner.

As the call for returning the bodies grew louder, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah held a sit-in demonstration late on Thursday afternoon at Sonwar in Srinagar. He was joined by Sajjad Shafi and Salman Sagar among other top leaders of his party, the National Conference. Mehbooba Mufti of the Peoples Democratic Party was put under house arrest to prevent her from holding a protest march along with her supporters. The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) held a press meet in the presence of former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah. PAGD spokesperson M.Y. Tarigami reiterated demand for the return of the bodies to the families.

Manoj Sinha, the Lieutenant Governor of J&K, has ordered a magisterial probe into the matter.

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