Scores of people gathered in a narrow street in Srinagar’s Sarai Bala locality on Tuesday morning to offer funeral prayers in absentia to the two militants killed last night and they alleged it was “staged”.
Police said the two militants who were killed in the gun battle on Monday night belonged to the banned outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad and had allegedly rented a room in the area claiming to be from Kupwara and students of a local college.
Where the men and women gathered – near the spot where the encounter reportedly took place – there were stains of blood on the road believed to be from last night’s violence.
After the prayers, the participants shouted anti-India, pro-Azaadi and pro-militant slogans and condemned the killings and alleged they were “staged”.
HT could not reach DGP K Rajendra and IG Kashmir SJM Gillani for a comment on the allegations of the residents, but according to Rajendra’s statement to the media last night the police “had inputs about presence of two militants in the area”.
“They were innocent 20-year-old students. The police are now saying they were militant commanders. How can they be?” an agitated local resident who participated in the prayer told HT.
They alleged that the “innocent students” did not have any weapons on them and one of them was arrested in the room and then brought to the road and shot while the other was shot during subsequent search.
“Rounds and rounds of bullets were fired by the security forces while children kept on crying and we sat scared,” he added.
This comes as a direct contradiction of what an unnamed senior police officer was quoted as saying in Greater Kashmir, a leading English daily in the Valley: “The police party was fired upon from the house of one Ghulam Muhammad Hakim. The fire was retaliated triggering a gunfight in which two militants were killed.”
Another man who had participated in the prayer service said: “Why doesn’t chief minister Mehbooba Mufti visit here where young boys have been killed?”
As a crowd gathered, a young man pulled out his mobile phone and showed pictures of the bullet riddled body of one the militant and commented, “This is how innocents are killed.”
Hurriyat (G) chairperson Syed Ali Geelani on Tuesday demanded an “impartial investigation by some independent agency” into the Sarai Bala killings.
“The Saraibala incident is a new record and achievement of the Mehbooba Mufti’s police and according to the eye witnesses it was clearly a staged drama of fake encounter in which two youths were killed,” the Hurriyat statement said.
The entire Sarai Bala area remained shut – shops and business establishments remained closed – while security personnel clashed with those who came out to protest against the “killings”.
Three policemen were killed in two separate militant attacks in Srinagar on Monday.