Emotions ran high for the second straight day in Jammu and Kashmir after families of two civilians, killed in a controversial gunfight in Srinagar, staged protests, demanding the local police return the bodies for a traditional Islamic burial.
As anger mounted over the incident, the Jammu and Kashmir administration today ordered a magisterial investigation.
The incident has drawn widespread condemnation in the restive Himalayan region, with the former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah joining the protest on Thursday along with a battery of senior political leaders.
Overnight police detained relatives of the civilians as they marked a late-night vigil at Srinagar’s Press Enclave, demanding the return of the mortal remains of their loved ones.
Two civilians were among four people killed in a shootout with government security forces in Srinagar earlier this week. Their families have challenged the troops to come clean about how the raid unfolded.
The police version
Police say the civilians died in the crossfire between government troops and militants. However, witnesses and families of the civilians say cops used those civilians as human shields during the standoff.
The fight, according to police, left dead a militant along with his "associate," and "two sympathisers” – the civilians in question Dr Mudasir Gul and Altaf Ahmad Bhat.
Vijay Kumar, police inspector general told local media, “Joint teams of police, central reserve police force (CRPF) and army set up a cordon and search operation. When government forces knocked on the door of a room where the militants were hiding, militants shot at them, and in self-defense, troops opened fire."
Families deny official account
Families, friends and acquaintances have contested the cop version, adding that the slain were ordinary civilians, who had nothing to do with militancy in any form.
The bodies of Altaf Ahmad Bhat and Dr Mudasir Gul were buried by police over 70 km away in Handwara without the presence of their family members, relatives or friends.
As the valley experienced extreme cold temperatures and mercury plunged, Bhat and Gul families along with their friends began the sit-in on Wednesday.
While National Conference leaders managed to join them today, another former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was prevented by authorities from going to the protest site.
Meanwhile Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, condemned the civilian killings in Hyderpora, saying an incident like this in the heart of Srinagar is very worrying. He demanded an impartial probe by a sitting High Court judge.