Hundreds of people in Indian-administered Kashmir have staged protests after a man was said to be killed by security forces who were also accused of placing his grandson on top of his body to take photographs.
The Inspector-General of police in Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, told reporters that rebels opened fire at security forces from a mosque in the northern town of Sopore, setting off a battle on Wednesday.
Kumar claimed that the civilian, Bashir Ahmed Khan, was killed by the rebel fighters as he was driving past and “the family was pressurised by them to blame it on the security forces”.
However, the family of the slain civilian alleged that Khan was dragged from his car and shot dead by paramilitary troopers.
His three-year-old grandson, who was travelling with him, was later pictured sitting on his chest.
“We received a call that my father had met with an accident,” Khan’s son, Suhail Ahmad, told Al Jazeera.
“When we reached Sopore, we were told he was killed in a crossfire. If it was a crossfire, his body should’ve been inside the car but it was found on the road.”
Khan’s brother, Nazir Ahmad, also rubbished the police claims and blamed security forces for the death.
“I can go to meet the top police officers to counter their claims. My brother was not a militant. He did not carry a gun. Why was he killed?” he asked.
The family members also accused the security forces of putting the child on the deceased civilian’s body for taking pictures.
The photo of the child sitting on the body of his dead grandfather was widely shared on social media.
“They dragged the body out and put the child on top. The child’s clothes were drenched in his grandfather’s blood. He was not a militant,” one of Khan’s relatives claimed.
Kumar added that one security official was killed and three were injured.
Later on Wednesday, hundreds assembled at the man’s funeral near Srinagar, shouting “We want freedom” from Indian rule.
Government forces have intensified counterinsurgency operations against rebels since a coronavirus lockdown was imposed in March.
Since January, at least 229 people have been killed during more than 100 military operations across Indian-administered Kashmir, including 32 civilians, 54 government forces and 143 rebels, according to the Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a rights group.
For decades, rebel groups have fought for the region’s independence or its merger with Pakistan. Since 1989, the fighting has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians.
India has more than 500,000 troops stationed in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory also claimed by Pakistan.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebels. Islamabad denies the allegations.
India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, a region both claim in entirety but rule parts of.
Al Jazeera and news agencies