The families were forcibly removed from the protest site and taken into police vehicles
In a late night operation, police swooped down on protesting relatives of Mudasir Gul and Altaf Bhat, two businessmen who were killed in a controversial encounter at Hyderpora neighbourhood of Srinagar on Monday.
The families were forcibly removed from the protest site and taken into police vehicles. Braving the winter chill, they protested and lit candles on Wednesday night to demand the return of the bodies of Mudasir Gul and Altaf Bhat, so relatives can give them a proper burial.
Among those who protested were the elderly, who held placards demanding justice.
Before the police action, family members told NDTV that a police officer visited them and assured them that the bodies will be returned. "The officer said the bodied will be given and asked us to leave. We told her, 'give it in writing the bodies will be returned'. She said she will get back after talking to a senior officer," a family member said.
But what came back was armed policemen in armoured trucks. They were seen dragging relatives from the protest site; electricity was snapped in the area.
"I am only asking for the body of my husband... I don't need anything else. I want to see his face. I want to touch his feet and seek forgiveness. I want to see him one last time and give a proper burial to my husband," said Humaira Mudasir, Mudasir Gul's wife. She was accompanied by her 18-month-old baby.
In a video that has been widely circulated online, Altaf Bhat's 13-year-old daughter tearfully described the moment she learnt about her father's death. She talked about how some policemen started laughing when she asked them why her father had been killed.
Businessman Altaf Bhat and dental surgeon Mudasir Gul were killed during a controversial anti-terrorist operation in Hyderpora on Monday. Police initially claimed they were shot dead by terrorists, but later said they may have been killed in the crossfire.
The police said both men were "terror associates" - a charge that provoked a furious reaction from family members and critics of the Jammu and Kashmir administration.
The families have alleged Altaf Bhat and Mudasir Gul were killed in cold blood, as was a third person - Amir Magray - whom the police called a "hybrid terrorist" and was allegedly working as a helper in the doctor's office.
Amir Magray's father, Abdul Latief Magray, has alleged his son was killed in a staged encounter.
Abdul Latief Magray is publicly known as someone is intensely vocal against terrorists. He lives in a remote village in Ramban district. He made headlines after killing a terrorist with a stone in 2005 and had received an Indian Army citation. He has spoken about how he raised his children "by keeping them at secret locations".
"The denial of the body of my son is the reward of our fight against terrorists. My home is still guarded by security forces; tomorrow, they can kill me and claim that I was a militant," he said.
The police said two pistols were recovered from the site of the encounter in Hyderpora.
All the bodies were buried in Handwara, some 100 km from Srinagar, after the police refused to hand them over citing "law and order problems".
The entire handling of the matter has triggered angry reaction from political leaders, including National Conference chief Omar Abdullah. The former Chief Minister said denying the family the right to bury their dead was a crime against humanity.
Another former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti staged a protest of her own in Jammu region, demanding justice and an impartial inquiry into the killings. Her party said she wanted to join the families at their protest site, but the police denied her permission.