Families of youth killed in Lawaypora encounter hold protest, demand bodies and fair investigation

“We want justice. We are ‘oppressed’. Our son was innocent. Return his body,” said a family member of one of the slain youth. Photo: Aman Farooq/ GK

The families of three youth who were killed in an ‘encounter’ at Lawaypora on the outskirts of Srinagar, on Monday staged a protest demonstration at Press Enclave in Srinagar, demanding a fair investigation and return of bodies of the trio.

“We want justice. We are ‘oppressed’. Our son was innocent. Return his body,” said a family member of one of the slain youth, as per news agency GNS. 

“They have snatched everything from me. Now nothing is left with me. Kill me in an encounter also and bury me along with them,” said Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, the father of the 16-year-old Athar Mushtaq Wani.

“You (soldiers) will get more rewards and you would be applauded by your mother and sisters as brave sons,” Mushtaq said as protesters, including the kin of the slain trio and a social activist, shouted slogans for justice.

Three youth — 24-year-old Ajaz Maqbool Ganai from Putrigam Pulwama, 22-year-old Zubair Ahmad Lone from Turkawangam Shopian and Athar Muhstaq Wani from Bellow, Pulwama, were killed on December 31 in Lawaypora. 

Police and the army have claimed that the trio were militants, but their families have refuted the claim. 

“Bodies are properties of families as clearly elucidated in international and human rights laws. Why are you afraid of handing over dead bodies,” asked Angad Singh, a social activist from south Kashmir.

“See an Indian army soldier is not an angel and he can also make mistakes. We have seen what happened with three youth from Rajouri in (Amshipora) Shopian. You are media men, please tell me wasn’t it exposed later,” he said, “If they were involved in militancy, please prove to us. It is not the case that you have become a court, judge and jury.”  

He asked how could a teenager like Athar who had no case registered against him with police during a short life span of 16 years becomes a “hardcore over ground worker (OGW of militants)” within an hour and a half. 

“If there is any democracy, they have to answer. They can give the tag of OGW to anyone. Prove the allegations,” the activist said. “I am not a politician. I’m a human being and I came in support of these families,” he said, adding, “They (police) now say that Athar’s cousin was killed four years ago being a member of some armed group. How can it be justified to link Athar with him,” he said, adding, “Tell me how many (former) MLAs are in Kashmir whose brother, father or cousins were militants. “If this is any justification, kill them also.” 

Singh said that their only two demands are a fair investigation and handing over of the bodies of the trio to their families.