Hyderpora encounter: Magisterial probe begins; political parties rally behind families, hold protests
Srinagar, Nov 18: On a day of fast-paced developments, the Jammu and Kashmir government on Thursday began a probe into the Hyderpora encounter in which the kin of three of the four persons killed have claimed they were innocent as political parties rallied behind the families and staged peaceful protests led by former chief minister Omar Abdullah.
Hours after Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha ordered a magisterial probe into the killings, Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar Muhammad Aijaz Asad appointed additional district magistrate Khurshid Ahmad Shah as inquiry officer.
Shah immediately issued a public notice, urging people who wish to record their statement in connection with Monday's encounter and approach his office within 10 days on all working days.
The magisterial probe was ordered amid protests by families of three of the four persons killed in the encounter claiming their relatives were innocent.
The kin of Mohammad Altaf Bhat (building owner), Mudasir Gul (tenant) and Amir Magray (Gul's office boy) have been protesting against the killings which they described as cold blooded murder. The relatives of Bhat and Gul were camping at Press Colony since Wednesday morning, to press for return of the bodies which were buried in the dead of night of Monday at Handwara in North Kashmir.
The day began with viral videos doing rounds which showed police removing families of two civilians from the protest site at Residency Road around midnight.
The families were taken for a meeting with senior officials at police control room Kashmir in which they reiterated their demand for return of the bodies.
Bhat's family welcomed the probe ordered by the administration but appealed to the Lt Governor to return his body so that his kids can see him for one last time.
Omar, who is the vice president of the National Conference, moved near the residence of chief justice of Jammu and Kashmir high court and staged a non-violent sit-in along with party leaders to demand for the return of bodies of the civilians killed in the Hyderpora encounter.
''We are sitting here peacefully. If we wanted we would have blocked roads, bridges, but no. There has been no sloganeering, no law and order disturbance and no road has been blocked.
''We are not raising voice against the government, we just demand that bodies be returned,'' Omar told reporters at the Municipal Park here.
He said despite the fact that the police admitted that the civilian was killed in crossfire, his body was not given to the family, but buried in Handwara.
In a related development, People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) met at the residence of its president Farooq Abdullah to discuss the situation arising out of the encounter.
After the meeting, Mohammad Tarigami, who is the spokesman of the PAGD, said they will be exploring all avenues to end the culture of impunity and the bloodshed. ''We will be writing to the President of India this evening, seeking a credible probe into the Hyderpora incident. In our view, only a judicial probe can be credible and fair.'' The veteran CPI(M) leader said the PAGD leaders, except PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, met at the residence of Abdullah to discuss the ''unfortunate situation'' arising out of the ''killing of three innocent civilians'' at Hyderpora on Monday.
He claimed that Mehbooba was placed under house arrest by the authorities.
He also said the magisterial probe ordered by the Jammu and Kashmir government cannot be fair as it was against the principles of justice that the ''accused administration investigated the charges against itself''.
''The PAGD leaders also appeal to the people and leadership of the country to rise in defence of Democratic rights of citizens of India from Jammu and Kashmir as well. There is a need to share this pain of Kashmir before it is too late, '' he said.
The PAGD spokesman refused to answer any questions other that related to the meeting of amalgam saying ''we are not here to do politics over the bodies of innocent civilians.'' The Peoples Conference and High Court Bar Association also held a protest against the killings.
Meanwhile, the Hurriyat Conference has called for a general strike on Friday to press for the demand for returning the bodies of the slain men to their families.