Srinagar encounter: Our sons weren't militants, say kin

Our sons were civilians and not militants, claim families of trio killed in Srinagar encounter

The families of slain Ather and Zubair claimed they had left home on Tuesday to get admission at a tuition center in Srinagar for class 12th

Representative image: PTI Photo

In a new controversy, the families of the militants killed in a gunfight in the Lawaypora area on the outskirts of Srinagar on Wednesday refuted the claims of the army and the police and claimed that they were civilians and not ultras.

The families of Aijaz Ahmad Ganie, Ather Mushtaq Wani, both hailing from south Kashmir’s Pulwama district and Zubair Ahmad Lone from neighboring Shopian district, assembled outside Srinagar's Police Control Room and staged a protest against their killings.

They claimed that the three weren't militants and two of them had left their homes only yesterday for some work.

“Yesterday (Tuesday) at 10 am, he had tea with me and I swear about it. I don’t know where he was brought down from Sumo. Is this what is going to happen in Kashmir? Is this democracy? Is this the governor Raj? Kill me. Why did you kill him? He was a student,” said Bashir Ahmad Ganie, grandfather of Aijaz, one of the slain men.

The families of slain Ather and Zubair claimed they had left home on Tuesday to get admission at a tuition center in Srinagar for class 12th. “Both are students and appeared in the class 11th examinations," cousin brother of Ather told reporters.

The families demanded justice and appealed to the higher-ups to look into the matter.

 The army, however, said that the slain trio was planning a “big attack” on the national highway to gain publicity and were killed in an overnight encounter.

General officer Commanding (GoC) of Kilo Force, Major General H S Sahi told reporters that the nature of ammunition used by the trio in the gunfight “suggests they were planning a big strike on the highway.”

A police spokesperson in a statement said that although the slain trio was not mentioned in their list of militants, “yet two of them were hardcore associates of militants.”

“Pertinently, one of the two is a relative of top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Rayees Kachroo who was killed in 2017. Reportedly, the third might have joined very recently. Generally, parents don’t have an idea about the activities of their wards. Several over ground workers (OGWs) after committing crimes like grenade throwing and pistol shooting stay normally with their family,” the spokesman said. 

Quoting an example, he said, “For instance, one student from Pulwama who was taking coaching in Srinagar was caught for lobbing a grenade with the help of CCTV’s footage. His parents were totally unaware of his militant activities.”

However, he said police are investigating the case and after a thorough investigation will come to the conclusion soon on merits.

“The trio killed in today’s encounter was given ample opportunity to surrender both yesterday evening and today morning but they didn’t and instead fired and lobbed grenades on the search party,” the spokesman claimed. 

Earlier in July this year, three labourers from Rajouri district of Jammu region were killed by the army in Shopian and dubbed as militants. However, after an outcry, the Army and the Police ordered separate inquiries into the matter.

After months of investigations, an Army officer of the rank of captain and two civilians were found culpable in the killings. The police produced challan against captain Bhupinder of Army’s 62 Rashtriya Rifles battalion, Tabish Ahmad and Bilal Ahmad, both locals before the Principal and Sessions Judge, Shopian last week.