Protesters in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), in solidarity with the families of the alleged militants killed in an encounter at Lawaypora in Srinagar on Monday spelt out the word 'RETURN THE BODIES' with freshly-precipitated snow.
The photo soon went viral on social media and kickstarted the #ReturnTheBodies trend, where journalists, activists and netizens shared the message in protest to demand that the bodies of the alleged militants be returned to their families.
For the uninitiated, three persons — Aejaz Ganai from Pulwama, Zubair Lone from Shopian, and Athar Mushtaq from Pulwama — were killed in an encounter at Lawaypora in Srinagar on December 30.
The Army said that they were repeatedly given a chance to surrender but they did not do so and instead fired at the security forces and lobbed grenades. The families of the slain men have been contesting the version of security forces claiming that their sons were not militants.
"I want justice, I don't want money, I want the body of my son," father of Athar, one of those killed in the encounter was quoted by news agency IANS as saying, "I want to ask the people of the country that I want justice, I want my son, he was just 16 years old, either give me back my son or bury me there where he is buried."
"Please tell us what is the fault of the youth killed in the encounter," a relative of Athar said.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti also on Monday demanded that bodies of the three alleged militants killed in the Parimpora encounter last week be handed over to their families.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said the Centre and the Union Territory administration should review the policy of not handing over the bodies of those killed in encounters with security forces.
The former chief minister claimed that during her tenure at the helm, she was also told not to return the bodies of the slain militants.
The leaders cited claims of their families that the three were innocent, though police had said they were radicalised and two of them had links with the Lashkar-e Taiba.
The police have said although the three were not mentioned in the list of terrorists, yet two of them are close associates of terrorists or over ground workers (OGWs).
Meanwhile, the police on Monday released videos showing appeals being made to the holed-up militants to surrender on the evening of December 29 and morning of December 30.