FRESH WOUNDS
THE WEEK|December 05, 2021
The Hyderpora killings are a wakeup call for the BJP
TARIQ BHAT

ON NOVEMBER 15, at around 4:30pm, security forces launched a search operation at a commercial building in upscale Hyderpora, Srinagar.

“A joint team of the police, 2 Rashtriya Rifles of the Army and the Central Reserve Police Force have launched an operation on a ‘specific input’about the presence of terrorists in an illegal call centre rented for business in a private building,”said a police statement.

Hours later, four people were declared killed in the encounter. Among them were building owner Altaf Ahmed Bhat and tenant Dr Mudasir Gul, a dentist-turned-real-estate-contractor with an office on the first floor of the building. The initial police statement called them ‘terrorist associates’.

Inspector-General of Police Vijay Kumar said the other two casualties were a foreign militant called Bilal Bhai or Haider, and his associate Amir Ahmed, from Banihal in Jammu’s Ramban district.

A more detailed police statement followed. “In order to show the suspect call centre in the building, the owner of the building, Altaf Ahmed Bhat, as well as the tenant, Mudasir Ahmad Gul, were called to accompany the search party,” it said. “As the search party approached a room on the top floor of the building, the hiding terrorists started firing indiscriminately towards the party, which retaliated. In the initial exchange of fire, both individuals accompanying the search party received critical gunshot injuries and succumbed to their injuries. In the ensuing encounter, both terrorists hiding in the room were eliminated and their bodies were retrieved from the site of the encounter.

“Amir Ahmed was a resident of Banihal who was earlier working as an OGW (overground worker) of an LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) commander. Preliminary investigation revealed that Gul was running an illegal call centre in the said building rented for business and was working as a terrorist associate. The recoveries and other digital evidence indicated that a fake call centre was established to provide logistical support to the active terrorists.”

The statement also said that Haider was involved in the recent shootout at the Jamalatta area of Srinagar, and that Gul had helped him escape the spot in a Maruti Alto. Unlike the earlier statement, this one did not call Bhat a ‘terror associate’.

It was later revealed that Ahmed was a peon in Gul’s office and his full name was Amir Ahmed Magray. His father, Abdul Lateef, refuted the police claim that he was a ‘hybrid militant’ and demanded his body for burial. Families of Bhat and Gul did the same. The bodies of all four men had been buried at Handwara in Kupwara, 70km north of Srinagar. Since Covid-19 struck, security forces have not handed over bodies of slain militants to their families. This was done to avoid crowded funerals.

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