Pulwama family hold protest, demand return of body

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The family of Ather Mushtaq Wani, a teenager who was killed in an alleged gunfight in Srinagar last month, held a protest on Tuesday at their native Bellow village in southern Pulwama district and demanded the return of the bodies.

Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, the father of the teenager, led the protest in which people from Bellow took part. He had appealed to the public earlier this week in a video message to assemble at the empty grave of his son at the village.

Athar, along with two other youths from south Kashmir, were killed in a gunfight on Srinagar outskirts on 30 December. The police and army claimed the trio were militants while their families challenged the version and said they were not linked to militancy.

Wani said that he canceled the call for a large gathering at the graveyard and instead staged a smaller demonstration in which his family members and neighbours participated. “I thought people might face problems and I didn’t want that,” he said.

As a precautionary measure to avoid any largescale gathering at Bellow, the police and paramilitary personnel had blocked access to the village and had placed armoured vehicles on the roads leading to it. Some media personnel were also not allowed to cover the protest.    

Wani appealed to the authorities to return the body of his son in a week’s time. “Otherwise I will stage a sit-in protest in Lal Chowk and won’t stop even if they kill me,” he said.

Athar and the two other youths are buried at Sonamarg in north Kashmir as authorities had refused to handover their bodies.

Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Vijay Kumar had yesterday said that the bodies of those killed in the alleged Srinagar gunfight will not be returned to their families due to the threat of COVID-19 pandemic.

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