‘Killed civilians assembled in nearby showroom first’: Eyewitness account of Srinagar ‘gunfight’

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Following the killing of four people in a “gunfight” in Hyderpora area of Srinagar, eyewitnesses said that the people killed in the incident were initially assembled in a nearby showroom, before they were taken to the gunfight site.

The four slain people were identified as Mohammad Altaf Bhat, a shopkeeper from Barzulla who also owned the building; Mudasir Gul, a doctor by profession from Kanipora, who was working as builder and had the office in the building; third as Aamir from Banihal, who was working as helper in Gul’s office. The fourth person, as per the police, was a foreign militant Haidar. 

The police claimed that “the building owner Bhat was killed in a crossfire while the fourth person [Gul] was an OGW who had provided his rented space to Haider and his associate Aamir, for using the same as a militant hideout”.

The families of Gul and Bhat, however, have rejected the police claims, saying the duo were innocent civilians, killed in cold blood.

The Kashmir Walla exclusively spoke to at least four eyewitnesses who were on the spot during the incident. They said that of four people killed, three were civilians and were busy in their daily work when the “gunfight” started in the area. One among the four eyewitnesses is a relative of Bhat. The eyewitnesses requested not to be named for fear of reprisal from the government. 

It was around 5:30 pm on Monday, as per the eyewitnesses, when the area was cordoned and the government forces started searching the buildings in the vicinity.

Bhat’s relative, who was present at the spot during this search, told The Kashmir Walla that before the cordon, a few personnel of the troops, wearing pheran, were already present near the building [where the suspected gunfight took place]. 

“They later joined the search party,” said Bhat’s relative. “We saw the troops parking their vehicles outside the building. As they were approaching towards the building, Aamir who was a helper to Mudasir was coming down from the building and was immediately frisked.” 

Another eyewitness, a shopkeeper in the vicinity, said that Aamir was also asked to hand over the phone but he was not carrying it with him.

“I heard him [Aamir] telling the troops that his phone is not with him. By the time they were frisking him, Bhat told his nephew to shut the shop, as the atmosphere was getting scary,” said the eyewitness. After frisking Amir, the eyewitnesses saw him walking to wards the nearby hospital.

“As Altaf was trying to shut the shop, the troops approached him to accompany them upstairs of his building, he politely obliged. After the first search, both Mudasir and Bhat were brought downstairs,” eyewitnesses said.

“Once they [troops] were searching the area, all the shopkeepers and labourers were gathered at the premises of the nearby two-wheeler showroom. Bhat and Mudasir were also asked to assemble with others in the open yard of the showroom. One can check the CCTV footage too,” revealed the eyewitnesses.

They also said that after half an hour, the troops again called Bhat to accompany them into the building and also close his shop, which he had left open. 

“He again accompanied the troops into the building and after a while returned to the premises of the showroom,” said one of the eyewitnesses.

Eyewitnesses said that the third time Bhat was called again, along with Mudasir, to accompany them to the building but they never returned. 

Bhat’s daughter also claimed that her father was taken twice at the gunfight site for the search operation, before he was killed in a third attempt. “My cousin is witness to it. He was with my father at the shop. Not a single bullet has been fired from the building. They (troops) even killed the Dr (Mudasir) who was an eyewitness to the entire episode,” she said.

“After these two were taken, within a few minutes, there was indiscriminate firing. After the firing stopped, we kept asking the police who had secured the showroom premises about Bhat and Mudasir. They assured us that both of them are fine,” said the eyewitnesses. 

“It was around 11:30 pm when we were allowed to move out from the showroom, we came to know that both of them had been killed,” they added.

“Before taking Mudasir along, an officer asked Mudasir to recall Aamir to the office. But we don’t know how he [Aamir] was killed,” they said.

The killing of Haidar [allegedly a foreign militant] has also been a “mystery” as no one had seen him in the building before the “encounter” started.

“We have no idea who this Haidar is, and from where he landed in the scene,” the eyewitnesses said.

Talking with The Kashmir Walla, Bhat’s elder brother Altaf Ahmad also rubbishes the police claims, accusing the authorities for making false statements to cover up their “crime”.

“Yesterday, the IGP said that my brother was OGW. Today, in the press conference he is saying that my brother was killed in a cross-firing. At least, the authorities should speak the truth rather than making false accusations,” said Altaf.

Mudasir’s family, while staging a protest at the press colony, also pleaded for his innocence.

“He [Mudasir] was a common person. He was not a militant. He has two children and was working in his office when he was killed,” the family said.

The family said that Mudasir, who was a doctor, was working as a builder, and had the office at the Hyderpora for the same.

“He had come only yesterday to Kashmir. In the morning he bought biscuits for his children before he left for the office. In the evening when the gunfight started, we called him on his phone but nobody returned the call,” the family said.

The family said that around 12 pm they reached the Police Control Room (PCR), where the officials without disclosing the names, told them that they had the possession of the four dead bodies, and all of them had been sent to Handwara for burial.

The family said that apart from working as a builder, Mudasir was also setting up the call centre and had recently bought computers for the same.

Both the families of Bhat and Mudasir urged the government to return the bodies of their kin for the proper burial.

“We can’t fight with this mighty administration. They have all the power at their disposal. All we want is the return of the body of our loved ones, so that we can give them a dignified burial,” the families said.

In response though, the police has said that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police will probe the modus operandi of a “hi-tech hideout” at Hyderpora and will also investigate the sequence of events that led to killing of building owner and militant associate.

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