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India

Hyderpora Encounter: Man, Who Killed Militant With A Stone, Struggles To Get Dead Son’s Body Back From Govt

The initial assertion by the police was that the slain either were militants or had links with militants.

(Photo: India Ahead Network)

New Delhi: Once a warrior for the Indian state who won a state bravery medal for killing a militant with a stone, today the father of Aamir Lateef Magray from Jammu and Kashmir begs for the mortal remains of his dead son.

On November 15, 2021, the army cordoned off a three-story building in Hyderpora, where allegedly an illegal call center run by a dentist Mudasir Gul was functioning on the third story with few shops on the first floor.

This was followed by a shootout, four people were killed in suspected circumstances. Three of the deceased included the dentist, the building owner Altaf Bhat, and Magray, a tea maker. The fourth according to the police was a militant named Haidar. Police meanwhile also called Magray, a ‘hybrid militant’.

The families of the deceased except the foreign militant Haidar alleged that they were innocent civilians and were shot dead after they were made human shields in a ‘staged encounter’.

The initial assertion by the police was that the slain either were militants or had links with militants. However, when the huge protest outpoured against the police claims, more so for the return of dead bodies that were forcibly taken away by forces and buried on a faraway hill lock in Handwara district, all hell broke loose.

Braving the cold, the family members of the deceased protested through the night at the Press Colony in Srinagar seeking the bodies of their kin, however, policemen used force late at night to vacate them from the site.

While the killing took place on a Monday, bodies of just two people were exhumed on Thursday from a hill lock at Wadder Zachaldara at Handwara. But no one gave back the dead body of Magray whose father ran from pillar to post in all official corridors for it to be returned.

For Bhat and Gul, this graveyard was at least 70 kilometers away but for Magray’s father, Handwara is over 200 kilometers as he resided in the Ramban area of the Jammu division. “If not my son but his grave should be near me so I can pray for him at least,” he pleaded.

His father, an employee in the Public Engineering Department, has repeatedly held that “they are staunch Indians” who risked their lives to curb militancy in their area by constantly working alongside the army.

His family says that he was a Hafiz (a memorizer of the Holy Quran) and had gone to Srinagar to teach kids at any Madrassa but due to the paltry income, he started out working as labor. Aamir had reportedly studied the Quran at Deoband and had returned home recently before being killed in Srinagar.

The family reached Srinagar after hearing the fateful news but were told that their son was a militant. Abdul Latief Magray, his father said, “when I heard my son has been killed, I took along the Sarpanch to get back his dead body. But the police told me that he is a militant. How is he a militant? Our whole family has taken bullets (for the nation). We have been living out of home after being forced to live away (by militants),” he said.

He added that the whole of their family were “staunch Indians” but today the government is calling them militants. But despite Magray’s appeals to police and governor for the return of the dead body, no heed was paid and he was forced to move High Court for the same.

Next month after the encounter, when Magray moved High Court, nearly five months later a decision was made by a single judge bench. Citing earlier decisions of the apex court, it said that “(every individual) has a right to dignity and fair treatment under Article 21 of the Constitution of India… (It) is not only available to a living man but also to his body after his death”.

It added that “the parents and close relations of the deceased are well within their right to demand the dead body of their dear one to be cremated or buried as per their traditions, religious obligations, and religious belief. This right would also include the choice of the relatives to have the dead body cremated or buried at his native place”.

Latief who was happy with the verdict had said that he needed no compensation and the decision was relieving as he could at least “pray for his dead son” at the nearby graveyard where they intended to bury him.

Court had said that the manner in which the burial was done by the police was “not traceable to any procedure established by law” which is “just, fair and equitable”.

It ordered an exhumation of the body in case it was in the initial state of putrefaction but in case it was “not in a deliverable state”, it asked the government to pay the father a sum of rupees five lac as compensation “for deprivation of his right to have the dead body of his son and give him decent burial…”

This judgment came on May 27, 2022, but a week after this ruling, the HC stayed the proceedings on this order. This was despite the earlier judgment saying that “Since the dead body of the deceased must be in an advanced stage of putrefaction, as such, it would be desirable that the respondents act with promptitude and do not waste any further time”.

The government had filed an appeal saying that relief granted to the Latief was not in consonance with medical science as the body gets putrefied in just a month and the decision was made after six months of burial.

Deepika Singh Rajawat representing Magray said that the hearing was arbitrary and the government had filed an appeal at a short notice. The stay was also issued when the courts were to go on a vacation, the very next day till June 28.

Sighting no relief, Magray finally reached Delhi and petitioned the supreme court where a vacation agreed to hear the matter. On ordering exhumation by itself, the SC said “that would amount to snatching matter from HC.

“We will ask them to consider all your prayers including compensation tomorrow,” it said while ordering the HC “to dispose of matter either tomorrow or within a week”.

But the mystery surrounds the case as the family of Gul and Bhat are yet to know what unfolded inside the building where they say their kin were shot dead in a ‘staged encounter’.

“We asked that a magisterial inquiry report ordered by the governor be given to us but nothing was shared. Even the copy of the FIR or the autopsy and ballistic report was not given to us. The magistrate who inquired about this case was transferred from his place and there has been no progress at all,” Saima Bhat, niece of slain Altaf Bhat told India Ahead.

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