The families of two civilians, who were among four persons killed during an anti-militancy operation at Hyderpora in Jammu and Kashmir, continued their protest on Wednesday against the police and demanded that the bodies should be handed over to them, the Kashmir Observer reported.

In an operation on Monday, security forces killed two suspected militants, Pakistani national Haider alias Bilal Bhai and his associate Amir Ahmed. Two others who were killed in the gunfight were hardware shop owner Mohammad Altaf Bhat and dentist-turned-businessman Mudasir Gul.

Bhat was the owner of the house where the gunfight took place, and Gul was his tenant. The police have claimed that Gul was an active associate of the militants, PTI reported.

Inspector General of Police (Kashmir Zone) Vijay Kumar expressed regret about Bhat’s killing, but said that he would be counted as a harbourer of militants as he had tenants and not informed the police about them.

However, Altaf Bhat’s daughter Noha Bhat said that there was no evidence of militants coming into the building, according to the Kashmir Observer. She also alleged that only the police had opened fire and “killed common people”. “There was no firing from the other side,” Noha Bhat said.

She alleged that security forces used Altaf Bhat as a human shield. “My father was first taken upstairs and then let go, this was repeated a second time, on the third time he was fired upon,” Noha Bhat said.

An eyewitness, Nazir Ahmad, said that the police took Bhat away twice to search him, and then took Gul and another person with them. “They did not return after that,” Ahmad said, according to Outlook.

But the police have claimed that Bhat was killed in the cross-fire and that a post-mortem report will reveal who fired the bullet that killed him.

Altaf Bhat’s youngest daughter Maisara reiterated that her father was not a militant and refuted allegations about any links with them. “He was not involved in any crime,” she said.

Muzammil, the brother of Mudasir Gul, also said that he had had nothing to do with militancy.

Gul’s wife Humaira Gul said that she knew for sure that her husband was not an overground worker for militants, The Hindu reported. “I give licence to the police to kill me and my two-year-old daughter if my husband turns out to be a militant,” she said. “...Now, allow my daughter to have the last glimpse of her father’s face.”

Gul’s sister said that the police had never come to them for any inquiry, according to Outlook. She said that the family did not “expect any justice” from the police, and instead requested the authorities to hand over her brother’s body.

Mudasir Gul’s family also urged Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to intervene to allow his body to be returned to them. The Lieutenant Governor has assured that he will look into the demands of the families, the National Conference said.

Gul’s family had also gone to the Police Control Room and held protests at Srinagar’s Press Enclave, demanding that his body should be given to them.

Meanwhile, Amir Ahmad’s father has also claimed that his son was innocent. “He worked as a helper,” he said, according to The Hindu. “My family has killed militants and migrated out of fear. Now we are being accused of being militants.”

Meanwhile, Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti held protests in Jammu against the killings of the civilians. She demanded stern action against those involved in the killings.

Mufti also said that the bodies should be handed over to the families.

National Conference President Farooq Abdullah asked Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to institute an impartial investigation into the deaths of the civilians. He also reiterated the demand that the bodies should be given to the families.

Abdullah and two other National Conference leaders, Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi, said that the Centre should consider the impact of such killings on the psyche of the people, according to The Hindu.

“The contrasting versions of the killings have sent across a wave of fear across Kashmir,” a statement by the three leaders noted. “Varying versions have raised the misgivings among the people, particularly the bereaved families.”