Killed in 2020 ‘gunfight’, minor’s family also demands return of body

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Hours after authorities in Jammu and Kashmir handed over bodies of two civilians, who were killed in an alleged gunfight in Srinagar on Monday, father of a slain minor from Pulwama district of south Kashmir has reiterated his demand for the return of his son’s body.

The bodies of two civilians killed in Srinagar – Muhammad Altaf Bhat and Mudasir Gul, were exhumed three days after they were buried at a remote graveyard in Handwara area of north Kashmir. Gul and Bhat’s families trashed police allegations of their militant association and continued to protest demanding return of the bodies. On Thursday late night both bodies were given back to the families and buried in their ancestral graveyards by family members and neighbours. 

The incident has led to the family of Athar Mushtaq Wani, 16, who was killed last December in an alleged gunfight in Srinagar’s Lawaypora area along with two others, to again raise their voice for return of his body. 

The police had then claimed that Athar and two others were involved in militancy as overground workers, who “variously provided logistic support to militants”.  

However, the families of the trio had rejected the police’s accusation and claimed that all three were civilians. Authorities had not given the bodies of Athar and his two friends Aijaz Ganaie of Putrigam, Pulwama, and Zubair Lone of Turkwangam, Shopian, who were also killed with him. The bodies were instead buried in a remote graveyard in Sonamarg area of central Kashmir, over 100 kilometres away from Athar’s home.

After releasing a video on Friday to demand Athar’s body, his father, Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, told The Kashmir Walla at that time the Kashmir police chief and Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha had told him, “they would investigate it and would give evidence in the media.”

“They had told us that they would show the evidence to us within 10-15 days to prove that they were militants. No evidence has been given in the media nor to us,” Wani said.

Wani said that he has been waiting for the return of the body of his “innocent son who was killed in a fake encounter like they (authorities) did days ago at Hyderpora”. “I had screamed out that whatever happened to me may happen with you and today it has turned true,” said Wani. 

ALSO READ: “Buried my heart in a pit”: A broken father and a desolate graveyard

“Whatever has happened in Hyderpora where three innocents were killed, in the same way my son was killed in a fake gunfight but you people probably may not feel this pain. If you can do anything, help me in getting my son’s body back to be buried in the grave that I have dug in my village,” he said.

Following his son’s killing, Wani had dug a grave inside his ancestral graveyard, saying he will bring back his son’s body. In the following weeks of Athar’s killing, Wani led several protests saying that “it was a staged encounter’ as his son had no militancy affiliation. But after one such protest, he along with seven relatives were booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) by the police for raising “anti-national slogans”.

However, Wani while reiterating the demand for the body of Athar, said, “Eleven months have passed and today, I have been requesting that I have dug a grave with my own hands and we have been waiting for the body of Shaheed Athar Mushtaq Wani.”

“Whenever any child dies it reminds us of our child,” he added. “I requested everyone to support this victim and Allah would support you but no one listened to me. It will be possible because if you raise your voice then only the dead body of Shaheed Athar Mushtaq would be returned. Today, I am requesting you to be afraid of Allah as you are accountable before Allah.”

Wani also said that he had pleaded to LG Sinha for justice. “I had not demanded money or a government job but the body of my son, who had been buried in Sonamarg hurriedly [by authorities] in a poorly maintained grave,” he said

However, the authorities have not yet returned the body of the third person – Amir Ahmad Magray from Ramban, killed in the Hyderpora gunfight on Monday, whose family is also rejecting police claims and demanding his mortal remains.

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