J&K Police Book Father of Pulwama Teenager Shot in 'Encounter' Under UAPA

According to police sources, Wani had taken out a rally from a local mosque after Friday prayers last week to demand the mortal remains of his son.

Srinagar: The father of a teenager from south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, who was gunned down in an alleged encounter in the outskirts of Srinagar in December, has been booked by Jammu and Kashmir Police under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

Mushtaq Wani, father of 16-year-old Ather Mushtaq who was killed along with two others in an alleged encounter in Srinagar’s Lawaypora on December 29 and 30, has been booked in an anti-terror case along with six others, said former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.

According to local news portal Kashmirwalla, the case has been filed by Pulwama police under FIR No. 7/2021 against seven residents of the south Kashmir district under sections 147 (rioting), 341 (wrongful restraint) and 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 13 of the UAPA at the police station Rajpora in Pulwama.

The UAPA section is for “advocating, abetting, advising or inciting the commission of, any unlawful activity.”

According to police sources, Wani had taken out a rally from a local mosque after Friday prayers last week to demand the mortal remains of his son. “They want me to stop seeking justice for my son. He was my only son and if I have to sacrifice my life to get justice, so be it,” Wani said over phone.

Wani has been consistently asking for the body of his son, who his family says was a Class 11 student. Ather was buried by J&K Police in Sonmarg, over 110 kms away from their house. This was in line with a new policy adopted by J&K Police of denying bodies of militants to their families. The act of burying them far from their houses is to prevent large gatherings at their funerals.

Also read: J&K Govt’s Rationale for Not Returning the Bodies of Slain Men Doesn’t Hold Water

Wani has dug a grave in his family’s ancestral graveyard for his son. The fathers of the other two suspects, like Wani, have been saying that their sons are innocent and were leading normal lives till the day of their killing in the ‘encounter’.

Wani was described by J&K Police as an OGW (over ground worker) who “variously provided logistic support to terrorists”. Ather was the only son of his parents. His cousin, Rayees Kachroo, was a top grade militant who was killed in 2017.

Two brothers of Zubair Ahmad, the second person gunned down in the Lawaypora encounter, work as policemen and are posted in central Kashmir. The father of third suspect, Aijaz Maqbool Ganie, also works as a head constable in J&K Police.

Those booked in the latest anti-terror case include other relatives of Ather and the head of a local mosque.

‘60% militant’

According to a senior police officer, a preliminary probe had found that none among the three suspects had any history of crime, prompting the administration to reveal details about their allegedly “militant past.”

Later, social media had erupted in anger after IG Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, claimed in a press conference that the involvement of the three persons in militancy has been “almost 60 per cent proved”.

“According to the meta data, all the three associates who were killed in the encounter were involved in militancy. They were providing logistical support (to militants). We want to take a few more days so that we collect all the evidence which we will show to their parents first to convince them of their children’s involvement,” Kumar had told reporters.

Also read: Shopian ‘Encounter’: Kashmir Police Arrest Two Men; Victims’ Bodies to Be Exhumed

IG Kumar and DGP Dilbag Singh could not be reached for their comments.

This is the second such incident in which a parent of an alleged militant killed in an encounter has been booked by J&K Police under the anti-terror law. Last year, Naseema Bano, mother of Tawseef Sheikh, a Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander who was killed by security forces in May 2018, was arrested on June 19 from her home in Kulgam and booked under UAPA the next day (FIR No 30 of 2020).

The ‘encounter’

In the evening of December 29, fierce gunshots were heard near the Hokersar wetland. “Encounter has started at Lawaypora area of Srinagar. Police and security forces are on the job. Further details shall follow,” the Kashmir Zone police said in a tweet.

The alleged encounter took place on the strategic Srinagar-Baramulla highway, prompting the administration to reroute traffic, “Essential traffic coming from Baramulla, Sopore, Gulmarg towards Srinagar is diverted via Magam- Budgam to Srinagar and vice versa in view of a security situation, inconvenience is regretted,” a traffic department official in Srinagar tweeted.

As night fell, so did the intensity of the gunshots. In wee hours of December 30, firing resumed in the area after which the police claimed to have gunned down “three terrorists”.

Also read: ‘Now I Have Nothing’: Families of Kashmiri Men Killed in ‘Encounter’ Reject Army’s Claims

“They were asked to surrender, however, they responded with firing and the operation was suspended for the night and resumed in the morning after they refused to surrender,” General Officer Commanding (GoC), Kilo Force, H.S. Sahi, had said.

The families of three men had demonstrated outside the police control room in Srinagar a day later, demanding that police hand over their bodies.

The Gupkar Alliance, an amalgam of six regional parties, has demanded an impartial probe into the encounter.

After the uproar, J&K LG Manoj Sinha had said that the questions surrounding the killing would be addressed at an “appropriate time”.

“All the facts have come before me. I am looking into the matter and in time you will get the appropriate answer,” Sinha told reporters in Srinagar on January 7.

Asked whether the encounter would be probed, as was demanded by families, Sinha had said, “I want to make clear, with all responsibility, that if there is any suspicion, we will definitely hold a probe. However, J&K is a sensitive place. We have to strike a fine balance between the two without compromising the morale of the security forces. We have to keep in mind every aspect.”