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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Son killed in encounter, bravery award winner says: ‘I shed blood for nation’

Amid apprehensions of trouble over the killing, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has imposed Section 144 in parts of Gool, prohibiting assembly of four and more people.

Written by Arun Sharma | Jammu |
Updated: November 18, 2021 11:12:21 am
Abdul Latief Magray holding citations for his bravery award. (Express Photo)

ONE OF the alleged militants killed in a shootout in Srinagar’s Hyderpora Monday, that led to the death of four including two civilians, has been identified as a local youth from Gool tehsil in Jammu’s Ramban district and the son of a state bravery award winner, who received the Army’s commendation for helping counter-insurgency operations.

Amid apprehensions of trouble over the killing, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has imposed Section 144 in parts of Gool, prohibiting assembly of four and more people.

Questions have been raised by the family members of those killed in the shootout in Hyderpora. Police claim that the dead included two militants, Amir Magray of Thatharka in Gool and a Pakistani called Bilal bhai, and two “over ground workers” Altaf Bhat (a businessman) and his tenant Mudassir Gul (a dentist) who were shot in “cross-firing”.

Magray’s father Abdul Latief Magray, 58, an assistant lineman in the Jal Shakti Department, was given a bravery award in 2012 by the state administration for killing a militant. On January 15, 2006, the then Northern Army Commander gave Abdul a commendation certificate for his work in counter-insurgency in the area during 2005-06. A police officer confirmed Latief’s contribution in anti-terror operations.

The families of the two civilians killed in the encounter held a protest and a candle vigil in Srinagar on Wednesday, seeking that their bodies be handed over (all four were buried by police in Handwara, 70 km from Srinagar, following the encounter). Late in the night, authorities removed the family members from the protest site.

Abdul told The Indian Express he was informed over the phone about his son’s death, by a police official. “How can my son be a militant as I fought against them during peak militancy in the area?” said the 58-year-old, adding Amir was a “nationalist” like him.

Asking Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to provide him “justice”, he sought the return of Amir’s body. Abdul said he went to Srinagar but had to come back without the body.

Amir was the second of Abdul’s four sons and a daughter. While his eldest son is a labourer who lives in Delhi with his family, one of his sons is studying B.Tech in Gujarat and another is in Class 12. Abdul said Amir had gone to Srinagar just six-seven months ago and worked as an office boy with the dentist who was also killed in the encounter.

Amir’s brother-in-law, incidentally, worked with the businessman, Altaf, who was killed. He and his wife (Amir’s sister) lived in the building owned by Altaf where the encounter happened. Ten days ago, the couple had come to Gool on a visit.

Abdul got the bravery award for shooting a Lashkar-e-Toiba militant who had entered his house and killed his brother Qayoom, on August 6, 2005. The citation says an injured Latief had hit the militant with a stone, and after the latter fell down, his sister-in-law had snatched the militant’s rifle and Latief had shot him.

Fearing retaliatory attacks by militants, Abdul and his extended family had migrated to Udhampur, staying for a while at an ashram. He returned to Thatharka in 2011, and a police picket has been stationed outside his house since.

Ramban Additional Deputy Commissioner Harbans Lal Sharma said they imposed restrictions on large gatherings in Famrote, Sangaldan and Serikot areas Tuesday, till further orders. A police officer said it was a preventive measure and no untoward incidents have been reported so far.

Altaf’s niece Saima Bhat said she had written to the Raj Bhavan seeking release of his body, but not heard back. Gul’s family held funeral prayers in-absentia outside his home Tuesday.

Police claim that Gul was running “an illegal call centre” in the building owned by Altaf, and working as “a terrorist associate”.

NC president Farooq Abdullah spoke to LG Sinha seeking an impartial probe and his intervention in return of the bodies. In a statement, Abdullah said Sinha had promised to look into the demand, adding: “The contrasting versions of the killings have sent a wave of fear across Kashmir.”

PDP leaders led by former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti held a protest in Jammu, and asked why the bodies were not given to the families. She flew to Srinagar in the evening, but was not allowed by the authorities to join the candle vigil held by the family members.

Peoples Conference President Sajad Lone appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure “justice” for the families of Altaf and Gul. Pointing out differences in claims of the police and families, Lone said: “We can’t have a situation in a democracy where grieving is a luxury, where the freedom to touch and feel the lifeless body of a husband or a father becomes a distant dream.”

The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, including the mainstream Kashmir parties, has called a meeting on Thursday over the killings.

Abdul said he still has faith in the system, and believes police killed Amir based on a false tip-off. “Though my service in fighting militants has been rewarded with the killing of my son, I am still a nationalist,” he said. “We are Indians and I have shed my blood for the nation.”

with Naveed Iqbal, Srinagar

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