Families of youth killed in Kashmir claim they were civilians

The three youth, 24-year-old Ajaz Maqbool Ganai, teenager Athar Wani and 22-year-old Zubair Lone, were killed in a military operation that began on Tuesday and ended on Wednesday morning. They army claimed they were terrorists

December 31, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Families of the three youth who were killed on Wednesday stage a protest. Photo: Kamran Yousuf

On Wednesday, December 30, families of three youth killed in an encounter in Srinagar’s Lawaypora area in Kashmir protested outside the police control room. They said the youth who had been killed in a gun battle were civilians and had been falsely dubbed as militants.

The youth were identified as 24-year-old Ajaz Maqbool Ganai, teenager Athar Wani and 22-year-old Zubair Lone, who worked as a mason in Shopian’s Turkwagen.

Earlier in the morning, army officials claimed to have killed the three youth in an “encounter.” During a press conference, Major General HS Sahi told reporters that “the militants fired indiscriminately and lobbed grenades as well. The operation was put on a halt as the night approached but the cordon layers were tightened. With the first light of the morning the firefight resumed and militants used heavy ammunition,” he said.

Meanwhile, the sister of Ajaz contested the official version.  “He left at about 11 am to fill a form at the University of Kashmir. He called me at about 3 pm and said that he would be staying for the night. He said he had eaten lunch and would be back the next day. We were told today that he has been killed,” Ajaz’s sister Asiya told NewsClick.

“My brother was not a militant, he was suffering from a slipped disc and has never been involved in any militancy-related activity,” Asiya added. Ajaz’s father is a policeman.

A similar incident had taken place in July as well. Three civilians were killed and subsequently dubbed as terrorists by the state forces in south Kashmir’s Shopian. A month later, when the families of the slain recognized their pictures on social media it created a furore.

The three innocent youngsters were Ibrar Ahmad (20), Imtiyaz Ahmad (25) Ibrar Ahmad (16). They were natives of Rajouri and had come to Shopian in search of work.

An investigation by the police revealed that an army officer, Captain Bhoopendra Singh, and two civilians were involved in the murder and the cover-up. The youth were abducted and shot dead by the army officer. Then, weapons were planted on the bodies of the youth to make it appear that they were terrorists.

With inputs from Newsclick