Time for holding transparent probes in Kashmir over fake gunfight allegations

Several families have alleged that civilians have been killed in recent gunfights in Kashmir but the authorities have been reluctant to hold any enquiries.

Four persons were killed in a ‘gunfight’ between government forces and militants in Srinagar’s Hyderpora neighbourhood on the evening of November 15, according to J-K Police.

They were identified as Mohammad Altaf Bhat, the building’s owner; Mudassir Gul, a dentist and builder who worked in the same property; Aamir Ahmad Magray, Mudasir’s Ramban employee; and Haider, a foreign militant, according to authorities. Aamir and Mudasir were militant allies, according to the police.

Families publicly deny militancy charges

The trio’s families have all vehemently denied police statements, alleging that three innocent people were killed. Altaf’s family claims that he was used as a “human shield” at least three times, while Mudasir and Aamir’s families have categorically disputed police claims of militancy.

The three bereaved families have been protesting since the ‘gunfight,’ demanding justice, a thorough inquiry into the deaths, and the repatriation of the remains, which have been buried dozens of kilometres away in north Kashmir.

Authorities turn a blind eye to calls for investigation

Despite the three families’ strong complaints, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has failed to call for an inquiry. They claim it was a real firefight in which one militant, two accomplices, was killed and the building owner was causality in the crossfire.

This isn’t the first shootout in Kashmir that has sparked outrage among families whose loved ones have been slain. Several families have claimed that citizens were slain in gunfights in the recent past, much as they did in the 1990s during the height of militancy.

However, the government has refused to examine most of these instances, with the exception of one in Shopian in 2020, in which three Rajouri labourers were murdered in a fake shootout.

Civilian deaths during gunfights commonplace

In Kashmir, gunfights and civilian deaths are commonplace, and the government forces’ immunity under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) makes life much worse. The family in most of these cases have publicly rejected the police assertions, yet their cries for justice are rarely heard.

During gunfights or even civilian fatalities by government forces, both Centre and the administration in Jammu & Kashmir have remained silent on such charges. This silence, along with a lack of will to form a transparent administration, has only fueled public outrage in Kashmir. However, it is boiling behind a blanket of stillness.

The administration must also ensure that the findings are made public in order to ensure openness.

It should be highlighted that any administration or law enforcement agency can only be transparent if charges levelled against it is examined thoroughly and independently. Silence is not an acceptable reaction to such grave complaints.

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