Police have refused to hand over the body of a teenager, who died in “crossfire” when militants targeted a joint forces checkpost in Handwara on Monday, to the family.
While this is the first such instance of denial of the body of a civilian to the family, J&K Police said the decision was taken so that funeral crowds could be avoided amid the pandemic.
The body of 14-year-old Hazim Shafi Bhat, who was physically challenged, was buried 40 km from his home, in a graveyard reserved for unidentified militants.
“We requested officials to hand us the body, but nobody listened,” Mohammad Shafi Bhat, Hazim’s uncle, told The Indian Express. “If we want to pray at his grave, we will have to travel to another district.”
Kupwara DC Anshul Garg told The Indian Express that the decision was taken to avoid funeral gatherings. “The COVID crisis was the only reason. We helped family members attend the last rites in Baramulla district,” he said.
Hazim was buried at Sheeri in the border town of Uri. The graveyard there is reserved for unidentified militants, generally those from Pakistan. This is the first time an identified civilian has been buried there. Mohammad said that government officials arrived at their home early Tuesday and asked the family to travel to Sheeri as Hazim would be buried there.
“We weren’t given any option. Several family members, including his mother, had to travel to Sheeri to see his face one last time.”
They were told there was an order “from higher-ups” not to hand over the body, Mohammad added. Around 20 family members participated in the funeral.
Hazim was killed on Monday evening in “crossfire” when militants targeted the checkpoint on Baramulla-Handwara road, killing three paramilitary personnel. Initially, it was reported that a militant had been killed in the shootout, but he later turned out to be Hazim.
According to the family, Hazim had gone to graze cattle along with some relatives and boys from the village. “We were at our orchards when the firing started. Hazim couldn’t run, he cannot walk properly. We reached home, but he did not return,” said a family member. “At 10.30 pm, we heard he was killed”.
While this is the first time J&K Police have denied the body of a civilian to the family, they have since mid-April stopped handing over bodies of local militants to family members to prevent burials in the villages. The decision, police officials said, was taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The government, however, is handing over bodies of COVID patients to their families for burial and last rites.
“After two encounters in April, the families had assured us of limiting the number of people attending funerals, but that did not happen. Large gatherings were reported. We had to register cases and arrest people,” said a senior police officer on Tuesday. “We have stopped giving bodies as gatherings could become a reason for COVID-19 spread.” Another senior official said that the decision to not hand over the bodies is “temporary”.
Five injured in grenade attack
Srinagar: Five people, including a CRPF man, were injured after a suspected militant hurled a grenade on CRPF troops at Pakharpora, in Budgam district of central Kashmir on Tuesday afternoon. A CRPF Spokesperson said that unknown militants hurled the grenade on troops of C/181 CRPF at Pakharpora, Budgam. “01 CRPF personnel sustained minor splinter injuries. Four civilians also injured in the incident,” he said. Earlier SP Budgam Nagpure Amod Ashok had said that a grenade was lobbed in Pakharpora market and two civilian suffered minor injuries. —ENS
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