Kashmiri man moves HC seeking return of his son’s body for burial

Amir’s father Muhammad Lateef Magray rejected the police probe which suggested that his son was a militant.

The father of Amir Magray, one of the four killed by the Indian Army in the Hyderpora area of Srinagar in November, on Thursday filed a petition in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court seeking the return of the body of his son, maintaining his “innocence.”

Amir’s father Muhammad Lateef Magray rejected the police probe which suggested that his son was a militant.

The move came, according to PTI news agency, two days after the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Jammu and Kashmir Police probing the Hyderpora killings claimed that “while one civilian was killed by a foreign terrorist, two others, including a local militant (Magray), died in the crossfire after being used as a human shield by the hiding terrorist.”

Four persons were killed in Hyderpora on November 15 and the police had claimed that all the slain men had links to militancy. Speaking to Maktoob, the families of the three alleged foul play and had said that they were innocent, prompting the police to order the inquiry.

Lt Governor Manoj Sinha had also ordered a magisterial probe into the incident.

The 18-page petition was filed by Lateef through his lawyers Deepika Singh Rajawat and Mohd Arshad Chowdhary.

“…That being close to Amir, the petitioner knew everything good and bad about him, thus can state on oath that his son was never involved into any anti-national activities or was associated with any such outfit that conspires to bring harm to the nation,” read the petition.

Invoking Article 21 of the Constitution which extends the right to have decent burial as per religious ceremonies and rules, for his son, Lateef said he has been instrumental in fighting and curbing militancy in Gool and Singaldan area by working as a civilian volunteer with the Army.

“The magisterial probe was time bound and was supposed to submit its report within 15 days but despite passage of more than one month, no such report has been submitted so far,” Lateef said.

In the petition, Lateef said he and his wife are grieving and restless as the respondents have not even given them a chance to see the face of their son the last time.

“I want to bury him”

“What good will it do to talk about the carnage that has befallen on me?” Lateef asked. He was speaking to Maktoob reporter, a week after his son’s tragic death.

“I only want justice. I only want the body of my son. Whatever happens after that, I don’t care.”

In December 2020, Amir left for Srinagar to find a livelihood. “We are poor and have not sufficient resources to feed the belly,” Lateef said.

Amir had completed religious studies from Hyderpora, Bandipora and Deoband respectively before moving to Srinagar in search of a job after the pandemic, Lateef told Maktoob.

After searching for days together he [Amir] couldn’t find one. “It was then Dr Mudasir Gul who employed him at his office after he came in contact with him,” said Lateef. “Everything was going fine. We would speak over the phone every evening almost. Crack jokes and share daily happenings,” he said joined by his wife, Mebeena Begum.

“I remember he called me a day before, enquired when he [Amir] will return home. He replied I will return soon after my agreement of one year with Gul will come to an end around Eid and hung up the phone,” Mubeena, Amir’s mother told Maktoob.

On the evening of November 15, Amir’s phone was switched off. The next morning, Muhammad Lateef Magray learnt about the death of his son. “I was on my way to Ramban when I got a call from the local police station. They told me whether I am a father of Amir, after confirmation, I was told that he [Amir] has been killed in a gunfight in Srinagar,” Lateef told Maktoob.

In the meantime, Lateef took along some persons from the locality and moved to Srinagar to identify his son, however, he could not have the last glimpse of his son despite travelling miles “I went to Saddar police station to know the whereabouts of the dead body of my son, but they [police] told me he was a militant and has been buried at a distance of 150 from Srinagar,” he lamented.

“I wonder, how do they label him as a militant. He was the son of a brave Indian. I have fought for the nation and now I am being paid for this, by killing my innocent son. What sort of reward is this”? he asked.

Lateef alleged that he was not even called to participate in the funeral of his son.

‘Magray – a gold medalist’

In 2005, Muhammad Lateef Magray had killed a militant with stones during an encounter and was rewarded for it by the then government. But killing militants has not been a cakewalk for his family.

“We had to migrate for years due to fear of militants,” said Lateef adding in 2011 we returned to our ancestral home in Ramban “but my house has been under security since then”.

“How can they even think of calling my son a militant?”

“If my son would have been wrong, I would not have sent him to Srinagar in search of a job for the first place and would not have hesitated to hand over him to police. I have killed a militant with a stone, how can my son be a militant”?

‘Govt indifference’

Soon after the alleged gunfight was over, police had buried all the four persons away from home under a policy started in April 2020, authorities have buried more than 100 alleged rebels in unmarked graves, denying their families proper funerals and adding to widespread anti-India anger in the region.

However, the burial of Altaf and Gul had evoked massive resistance from their families. They had staged a sit-in protest in Srinagar’s Press Enclave, demanding the bodies of their relatives.

The protest came to an end when the police whisked away from the grieving families and detained them for a few hours after being released forcing the authorities to reconsider some decisions.

On 18 November, the authorities exhumed the bodies of Bhat and Gul from the graveyard in Handwara and handed them over for a second burial in Srinagar. However, Amir’s body was not returned to his family members.

“This is pathetic and indifference on part of authorities, if the families in Srinagar were returned their bodies, why can’t we get the body of our kin back”? Lateef questioned alleging govt of indifference.

Lateef has also asked for the body of his son to be exhumed and returned to him.

“I am demanding the body of my son who was killed in a fake encounter. It is a peaceful appeal to ask for my son’s body,” he said in an appeal to the governor.

“I want to see my son once after 11 months. I want to bury him according to our religion. I want to bury him near my home,” he added.

With inputs from Ishfaq Reshi.