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Bodies of two civilians killed in Hyderpora exhumed; to be handed over to families

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Earlier, NC, PC staged protests demanding return of bodies

Srinagar: Authorities on Thursday exhumed bodies of Altaf Ahmad Bhat and Mudasir Gul, two civilians killed in the Hyderpora encounter, for handing them over to their families, officials said.

The bodies were exhumed after sundown and are likely to be handed over to their families later in the night, they said.

This will be for the first time that the body of a person buried under police watch is returned to the kin since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March last year.

The bodies, accompanied by a police team, are being moved to Srinagar from Handwara where they were initially buried, the officials said.

Earlier, National Conference vice-president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah Thursday led a sit-in demanding exhumation of bodies of the civilians killed in Monday’s Hyderpora encounter and their return to their families for last rites.

The families have been on a sit-in since the killings and held a candle light protest on Wednesday night while demanding the bodies. But police forcibly removed the family members and briefly detained a few of them in a midnight raid.

Omar Abdullah led a sit-in of party leaders at a local park in Sonwar, a few meters away from his Gupkar residence, against the “government’s denial in handing over bodies of those killed in Hydepora encounter to their families for last rites,” news agency KNO reported.

“We are sitting here peacefully. If we wanted, we would have blocked roads, bridges, but no. There has been no sloganeering, no law and order disturbance and no road has been blocked.

“We are not raising voice against the government, we just demand that the bodies be returned,” he told reporters.

Omar said despite the police admitting that the civilian was killed in crossfire, his body was not given to the family, but buried in Handwara.

“We heard this morning that the families were called to PCR and we were hopeful that after Farooq Abdullah talked to LG, there will be some development in it, so we waited. We kept waiting in our office from 11 am thinking that something will be done, but they (families) were told to wait for two to three days,” he said.

The NC leader said he wanted Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to assure the families that justice will be done.

“I had decided not to stage a sit-in but to knock on other doors but the way families of slain were treated yesterday evening, I couldn’t control myself and decided to raise my voice,” the former CM said.

“So I had no option but to join the families in protest.”

He said that at this stage he has “nothing to do with the inquiry ordered into the Hyderpora encounter”.

“J&K police has itself admitted that civilians were killed in crossfire. I want their bodies to be exhumed from Handwara and the same be handed over to their families for last rites,” said Omar, who was flanked by senior party leaders at the protest venue.

Asked about the J&K Police’s term of “hybrid militants”, Omar said, “I have read so many intelligence reports and I do watch happenings across the world but I haven’t heard about hybrid militants. Somebody should make me understand what it means”.

J&K People’s Conference also held a protest in Srinagar to demand the handing over of bodies of the civilians killed in Monday’s gunfight in Hyderpora, and a judicial probe by a serving High Court judge into the matter.

Party leaders Abdul Gani Vakil, Khursheed Alam, Raja Aijaz along with scores of workers joined the protest in Srinagar today.

Speaking on the occasion, PC’s senior vice-president Abdul Gani Vakil said that the Hyderpora encounter is “rife with doubts when seen with perception of neutrality and it’s only after an impartial or neutral probe that the turn of events could be justly perceivable to every citizen of this country.”

He demanded return of mortal remains of the slain civilians to their families as a first step in ensuring justice to their families.

“Our president Sajad Lone has already appealed to the Prime Minister for his personal intervention in ensuring justice is delivered to the families of the victims. The LG has ordered a probe by an ADM rank officer, however, we demand a judicial probe by a sitting judge so that neutrality in the investigation is beyond doubt. It is imperative to not only deliver justice but also mitigate all doubts about the impartiality of the probe.

“We stand in solidarity with the families of the victims and share their pain and agony in this hour of grief. We also appeal to every media outlet and civil society of India to raise this issue with utmost urgency and sincerity,” he added.

Khursheed Alam said that Prime Minister has to take responsibility of this matter and ensure that justice is delivered to the victim families.

NC leader Omar Abdullah stages a sit-in at Sonwar demanding return of bodies of the slain civilians killed at Hyderpora to the families (L), Peoples Conference leaders and activists hit streets demanding impartial probe into the incident besides return of bodies. Photos/Kashmir Images

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