JAMMU AND KASHMIR, 01 January 2021, (TON): Protesting families of two teenage boys and a young man, killed in Indian-occupied Kashmir on Wednesday by government forces during an alleged firefight, have denied they were fighters.
Police said the trio were killed in a 20-hour gun battle on the outskirts of the region's main city of Srinagar after they were cornered inside a home on Tuesday.
“Repeated announcements were made to the hiding terrorists to lay down their illegal weapons and surrender,” police said in a statement.
“Instead, the hiding terrorists fired continuously upon the searching party.”
But relatives of the trio disputed the story and protested outside a police building in Srinagar where the bodies were being kept.
“Yesterday at 10 in the morning, he had tea with me,” Bashir Ahmad Ganai, the grandfather of one of the slain youths, Aijaz Maqbool, told reporters.
“We don't know where he was picked up from and later killed. What is going on in Kashmir?” Ganai said.
The families of the other two — high school student Athar Mushtaq and carpenter Zubair — also insisted they were innocent.
Parents of the students said they had been on their way to receive private tutoring in Srinagar. But police insisted two of them were “hardcore associates of terrorists” and the third might have recently joined fighter ranks. Even then, Kashmir Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar admitted the names of the trio killed in the 'encounter' were not in the "list of terrorists", according to The Indian Express.
The case bears similarities to a July incident in which three labourers were killed, sparking an outcry in the region.
The army had claimed that those three men were killed in a gun battle in the village of Amshipora, and that weapons were found on them. But on Sunday, an Indian army officer and two associates were charged with planting weapons on the bodies to make it look as though they were militants.
Pakistan strongly condemned the heinous killings in yet another fake encounter.
"Pakistan reiterates its call for independent inquiry under international scrutiny to investigate the unabated extra-judicial killings of Kashmiris by Indian occupation forces and to bring the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice," a statement issued by the Foreign Office said.
Referring to the July killings of labourers, it said the recent revelations of planting weapons on the bodies of the victims killed in Shopian by Indian troops to make it look as though they were armed fighters "are deeply disconcerting and an affront to the collective conscience of humanity".
Since January, at least 180 Kashmiris have been killed by government forces, a report says.
The FO meanwhile said Indian forces killed more than 300 innocent Kashmiris, including women and children, in 2020 in fake encounters and staged 'cordon-and-search' operations. It said 750 people were left critically injured.