In a grim and helpless appeal, the father of Ather Wani, one of the persons killed by the government forces in an alleged gunfight in Srinagar, Mushtaq Wani has called the government to “kill” his family “somewhere in a fake encounter and increase your medals”.
On 30 December 2020, the government forces killed three persons, who were later identified by their families as “innocent civilians”: Wani, an eleventh standard student from Bellow, Aijaz Ganaie, a graduate from Putrigam, both in Pulwama district, and Zubair Lone, a carpenter from Turkwangam from Shopian.
On 4 January 2021, the police had published on Twitter, where it attempted to show that the government forces had asked the men, believed to be trapped, to surrender. Calling it “a betrayal”, Wani told The Kashmir Walla that “I want to ask that his mobile was switched off at 4:30 pm, they should have at least called our SHO (Station House Officer) of Rajpora or the concerned police station and called us.”
“If they were fighting all night, as per them, then at least one would have called home that we are trapped,” Wani added. “There should be an inquiry.”
Wani saw the video and statements after the mobile internet was restored on 5 January 2021. The families have been protesting since 30 December 2020, claiming their kin were innocents.
On the video, Wani added: “I swear on [Ather], I would have taken him in my lap and given to you if he was a terrorist. How many lies will you tell? You should feel ashamed.”
Speaking of the last conversation of Ather with the family, Wani said, “I believe that when he called his sister at 4, he was held by those forces at that time as well.” “[Ather] was tied to a chair with rope and was beaten a lot,” a claim that The Kashmir Walla could not verify. “He was a 16-year-old kid. This is what you show to India that this is what we do [in Kashmir]? I only had one son.”
“I’m appealing to the government to kill my daughters, wife, my old parents, and me, somewhere in a fake encounter and increase your medals,” he said, helplessly. “And the amount you will get, spend that on your children to make them officers. I don’t want to say anything else.”
To pursue an inquiry into the alleged gunfight, Wani has been making rounds to police stations to find out more details. After staging a protest in the press colony, in Srinagar, on 4 January, the father went to the concerned police station in Lawaypora, the area of the alleged gunfight. “I asked for his iPhone. They said it had gotten fire (bullet) and we have sent it to Delhi. They denied giving me his cards or clothes.”
Reiterating his demand for the body of his 16-year-old son, Wani said, “It should not be like that they abduct a kid at 2 pm, then beat them up as much as they wished, and then make it an encounter. My heart aches. I don’t need money, I want inquiry and the person should be stripped naked, either found to be a Kashmiri or an outsider.”
Earlier, Wani had also dug a grave, in their ancestral graveyard in Bellow village, in anticipation of the body. “I want his body back, I’m waiting for his body.”
The government forces have recently begun to refuse to identify and handing over bodies of those it kills in gunfights. Under the new policy, those killed in gunfights are discreetly buried in designated graveyards in central and north Kashmir, in presence of their first blood and a magistrate. The killed trio in Srinagar was buried in Sonamarg, a famous tourist destination in central Kashmir.
On the day gunfight concluded, the Army’s General Officer Commanding (GoC) of Kilo Force, H. S. Sahi, said: “With the first light the firefight again resumed and militants used heavy ammunition against security forces.” Sahi claimed that the “three militants killed in the gunfight at Lawaypora on Srinagar outskirts were planning a big strike”. However, after the photographs of the bodies went viral on social media, three families from south Kashmir claimed the killed trio and vouched for their innocence.
Earlier, in a statement, the police claimed that “background check also reveals that Aijaz and Ather Mushtaq, both OGWs [Over ground workers] variously provided logistic support to terrorists”.
“Antecedents and verifications too show that both were radically inclined and had aided terrorists of LeT (now so-called TRF) outfit. [sic] One of OGW presently under police custody has also corroborated Aijaz’s association with LeT terrorist Faisal Mustaq Baba who was killed in Meej (Pampore) encounter in June last year,” the statement added.
Additional reporting by Yashraj Sharma