A Special Investigation Team of the Jammu and Kashmir Police probing last month’s encounter in Srinagar’s Hyderpora has concluded that two civilians – a doctor and a businessman – were either used as human shields by terrorists or killed by terrorists.
The SIT had earlier said both Dr Mudasir Gul and businessman Altaf Bhat were harbouring terrorists or concealing information about terrorist presence in a commercial complex where the encounter was carried out on November 15. The building was owned by Mr Bhat.
According to the police, four people including a foreign terrorist were killed during the encounter. The families allege that three civilians were killed in a staged encounter and were used as human shield by the security forces. The police said the third local, Amir Margay, who was working at Dr Mudasir Gul’s office, was a close associate of killed Pakistani terrorist.
The SIT is headed by Sujit Kumar, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Srinagar. Mr Kumar denied that he led the Hyderpora encounter and that there was a conflict of interest by heading the SIT probe.
“Perhaps the foreign terrorist received instructions from outside that Dr Mudasir may have been behind the encounter. On this suspicion, he killed Dr Mudasir Gul in the attic,” said Mr Kumar.
“After killing Dr Mudasir, they used Altaf Bhat as a human shield while trying to flee. In the ensuing firing, Altaf Bhat was hit by a bullet. His body was found at the terrace with Amir Margay,” the SIT chief said.
Mr Kumar said the Army and the Central Reserve Police Force or CRPF were also part of the Hyderpora encounter and it was the Army unit which provided the input about the presence of terrorists. This is for the first time when the Army was part of an encounter in the Srinagar city. So far, only police and CRPF have been carrying out anti-terrorists operations in city areas.
The police also defended releasing findings of the SIT probe when a magisterial probe ordered by the government has not been made public. “It will not influence the probe by additional district magistrate. The magisterial probe report has already been sent to judicial magistrate as mandated under law,” said Mr Vijay Kumar, Inspector General of Police.
The SIT chief said that Altaf Bhat and Dr Mudasir volunteered to help search the building when security forces launched the operation. But both didn’t tell them terrorists were hiding inside.
“We asked Altaf sahib if he was sure that no one is inside. He and Dr Mudasir said no one is inside the building. Altaf asked Dr Mudasir come and let’s show them (security forces) that no one is inside building. He appeared confident. He didn’t even ask for bulletproof jacket after volunteering to for search the building,” said Sujit Kumar.
On the death of the third civilian, Amir Margay, the SIT chief admitted he was initially let go after searches. Amir Margay left the building and instead of fleeing, he waited at a nearby hospital, Mr Kumar said. He added that after a half an hour, they called him back and asked him to search rooms to find if anyone is hiding in the building. “He feigned ignorance and said no one is inside. Amir was exposed after he was seen with the Pak terrorist inside and he also fired,” said Mr Kumar.
The SIT, Mr Kumar said, have collected technical, forensic evidence and recorded statements of 20 protected witnesses about the encounter and involvement and complicity of people killed in the encounter.
Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said the SIT probe is a cover up.
“SIT’s clear chit to armed forces in Hyderpora encounter isn’t surprising. It was purely a charade to cover up a botched up operation & absolve those culpable for killing innocent civilians. How can one expect justice when they themselves are judge, jury & executioner?” Ms Mehbooba tweeted.