Families reject the argument that victims between the ages of 16 and 22 were terrorists, while former prime ministers call for an investigation.
Mushtaq Ahmad Wani dropped to his knees with a cry tinged with sorrow, surrounded by mourners gathered in his yard. They killed my only son and buried him in the mountains far away,”They killed my only son and buried him far away in the mountains,”
Wani, a 42-year-old fruit trader living in Putrigam, a small village in the Kashmir region of India, was driving home on Wednesday when he received a message from the police asking for a picture of Athar Mushtaq, his 16-year-old son.
Mushtaq, a student, had left home the previous afternoon.
He got the news that made his heart burst when Wani arrived home.
Mushtaq was killed on Tuesday night by the Indian army. They said he was one of three militants planning an assault on the region’s capital, Srinagar, who had been part of the long-running insurgency in Kashmir.
Wani was puzzled, however, and frustrated. He was assured that his son was not a terrorist.
“He had called his sister and told her he had gone to the [nearby]town of Pulwama and would return in the evening or stay at a friend’s house,”He had called his sister and told her that he had gone to the [nearby]town of Pulwama and would return at night or stay at the house of a friend. “He told her that his phone might be turned off because of a low battery.”
Wani hasn’t been alone. The parents of the other two killed in the same alleged firefight also denied the version of the army, arguing that their sons were not militants at all, Aijaz Maqbool Ganai, 20, and Zubair Ahmad Lone, 22.
All three Mushtaq, Ganai, and Lone families say they were innocent and killed in a staged encounter by the Indian Army and their deaths were passed off as a successful anti-militancy operation. The military has a history of extreme human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings in Kashmir, and widespread protests across the area were triggered by news of the deaths.
The former chief minister of Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, has called for an inquiry into the deaths.
Kashmir’s Indian area has long been the site of a conflict between India and Pakistan, and since the early 1990s, rebels have been fighting against Indian rule. Thousands have been killed in the conflict, including civilians and insurgents, and Indian army officers are frequently rewarded for capturing and killing militants, either in the form of financial settlements or promotions.
The event comes days after a rare police investigation arrested an Indian Army officer in a staged firefight in July 2020 for the extrajudicial killing of three Kashmiri employees. Until “stripping them of their identities and marking them as hardcore terrorists.” the officer was found to have shot the civilians and laid guns on their dead bodies.
Proclaiming their innocence is rare for the families of known insurgents.
Locals who join Kashmir insurgents typically announce their recruitment on social media into the ranks of militants, often accompanied by a photo showing them carrying a gun, but none of the three had done so. Many that enter without such an announcement are usually still listed by the police and army and are kept on file with their information, including photos. Local police, however, admitted that the three “were not mentioned in our list of terrorists” and had no prior arrests. Nevertheless, the police and the military say that they are “hardcore members of terrorists.”
The families said that neither they nor their sons had ever been arrested and that their homes had never been searched by government forces, a common occurrence among known rebels’ families or their alleged accomplices.
Ganai, who was Mushtaq’s close friend, reportedly spent the past month studying at home. According to his father, Mohammad Maqbool, a doctor had advised him to be on bed rest because of a herniated disc in his back, and so he had not left the house for the past 35 days.
Ganai had left the house on Wednesday morning, Maqbool said, to send in an examination form. He later called his mother to inform her that he was likely to spend the night at the house of his friend Mustaq that evening, he said.
“How can you become a militant in two hours?” said Maqbool, who works with the local police as an inspector.
According to his family, Lone did not know either Mushtaq or Ganai, and lived in a village 15 km away. Distance from h The distance between h