The two men and one minor killed by the Indian Army in Kashmir in an “anti-terror operation” on Tuesday were innocent civilians, the father of one of the men has told the Daily Telegraph, as their deaths sparked protests across the region.
Tensions in India’s only Muslim-majority territory were already high after the Indian Army admitted on Sunday that an officer had killed three other Kashmiri civilians in a previous operation in July and then staged their deaths in a fake gunfight.
Muhammad Maqbool, the father of Aijaz Maqbool Ganaei, 20, who was killed along with Athar Wani, 16, and Zubair Lone, 22, said he was informed of his son’s death when he received a call from a policeman on Wednesday morning.
Mr Maqbool said Mr Ganaei travelled from their home in the village of Putrigam in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district to the city Srinagar on Tuesday to register for a postgraduate course at Kashmir University, with his friend Mr Wani.
“Yesterday, he left home for the first time in one and a half months, my son is a civilian,” a distraught Mr Maqbool told the Daily Telegraph.
“He had been bedridden with a disc prolapse in his vertebrae and was still experiencing shooting pains in his leg.
“He has been killed in a fake encounter, they have destroyed my world – is this a democracy?”
The Indian Army claims it launched a search operation after receiving intelligence three terrorists were present in Srinagar and that the three men were then killed on the Srinagar-Baramulla highway after an 18-hour gunfight.
“As the joint team of the searching party cordoned the suspected house the hiding terrorists fired upon the forces, which was retaliated and an encounter started,” a police spokesperson said.
Hundreds of protesters surrounded the police station in Srinagar on Wednesday, including the parents of the deceased, arguing the killings echo July’s staged encounters as the bodies have again not been handed over to their families.
In August 2019, India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party removed the autonomous status that Jammu and Kashmir had enjoyed since India’s independence in 1947.
The Indian Army did not respond to the claims made by Mr Maqbool when contacted by the Daily Telegraph.