J&K Lt Governor Manoj Sinha orders magisterial inquiry into Hyderpora encounter killings

Published : November 18, 2021 13:14 IST

Family members of Altaf Ahmad Bhat and Dr Mudasir Gul, who were killed during an encounter between security forces and militants at Hyderpora, shout slogans and hold placards during a protest demanding a probe and return of the dead bodies in Srinagar on November 17, 2021. Photo: PTI Photo/S. Irfan

The family members of Altaf Bhat, a civilian killed in the Hyderpora encounter on November 15, who were staging a sit-in protest at Press Colony in Srinagar demanding that his body be handed over to them were removed forcibly in a police van. Social media was flooded with images and videos of this act of high-handedness by the police. These were shared by journalists based in Srinagar as well as the local people who were present at the protest site.

The detained people were taken to an undisclosed location far from the protest site and released later in the intervening night of November 17-18. The police have not returned Bhat’s body to them or given a plausible explanation on that. As anger over the incident swelled, with several politicians and civil society members taking to the Internet to register their protest, Lt Governor Manoj Sinha’s administration ordered an inquiry.

“A magisterial inquiry by officer of ADM rank has been ordered in Hyderpora encounter. Govt will take suitable action as soon as report is submitted in a time-bound manner. J-K admin reiterates commitment of protecting lives of innocent civilians and it will ensure there is no injustice,” the LG’s office said in a Twitter post.

The Hyderpora encounter left two civilians — Altaf Bhat and Mudasir Gul, a medical practitioner — dead. The police version of events indicate that Bhat was not related to the alleged militant activities and was killed in cross firing. Police said Bhat and Gul were called to the spot as the building where the encounter took place belonged to Bhat and the office on the top floor where the militants were hiding was rented by Gul.

Police said: “Forces laid a cordon and started search operations. There are three rooms on the top floor. We did not know the exact location, so we called the owner of the building (Altaf) and the person who had rented the place (Gul) and was running his business from there.” The police said that Gul “was running a fake/unauthorised call centre from here. One of the rooms was being used as a militant hideout.”

Bhat’s family is shocked that even though there are no accusations of Bhat's involvement in militant activities, his body was not handed over to them. Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, the police have jettisoned the practice of handing over local militants' bodies to their kin. What began as a pandemic protocol has now apparently become the unsaid custom. All the four who were killed in the Hyderpora encounter were buried at an undisclosed location.

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