The families of two civilians, who were among four persons killed during an anti-militancy operation at Hyderpora in Jammu and Kashmir, were detained on Wednesday during a protest against the police action, The Kashmir Walla reported. All those detained were released on Thursday morning.

In an operation on Monday, security forces had killed hardware shop owner Mohammad Altaf Bhat and dentist-turned-businessman Mudasir Gul. They had also killed two suspected militants, Pakistani man identified as Haider alias Bilal Bhai and his associate Amir Ahmed.

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 had 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.

During Wednesday’s protest, the families of the deceased civilians were demanding the bodies of their kin to be handed over to them.

The families had been protesting since the morning in press colony in Srinagar till the police showed up around 11.45 pm and dispersed and detained them. Officials said that power supply was cut in the area before the police arrived, reported PTI.

On Thursday, Saima Bhat, a journalist and nephew of Mohammad Altaf Bhat, told The Kashmir Walla that the police detained her and her family members, including her father.

She said the police told them they had orders to clear the protest site at night “but the family can continue their protest tomorrow”.

Dr Hafiz, Gul’s brother, said that a senior police official had assured them that the bodies will be handed over to the families till Friday.

“But we asked the official for a written order or to inform the media that the bodies will be returned to the families or we will not leave the protest unless bodies are handed over,” he said.

Mudasir Gul’s wife Humaira Gul said that she only wants her husband’s body, reported NDTV. “I want to see his face,” she said. “I want to see him one last time and give a proper burial to my husband.”

All the family members of those killed have denied that their kin were engaged in any militant activity. Altaf Bhat’s daughter Noha Bhat had alleged that only the police had opened fire and “killed common people”. She also alleged that security forces used Altaf Bhat as a human shield.

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

Humaira Gul said that she knew for sure that her husband was not an overground worker for militants.

Meanwhile, several political parties, including Peoples Democratic Party and National Conference have criticised the killing of the two civilians.

International advocacy group Human Rights Watch has sought an investigation into the allegations that Bhat was used a human shield, reported The Wire.

Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director of the group, told The Wire that it was the “responsibility of security forces to keep civilians from harm during an armed operation, not to place them in harm’s way”.

She added: “The authorities should immediately order a transparent, credible and independent investigation into this incident.”