Hundreds of people in occupied Kashmir staged protests on Wednesday, accusing government forces of killing an elderly man in front of his minor grandson during a gun battle with Kashmiri fighters, which also left a trooper dead.

The Kashmiri fighters opened fire from a mosque attic in the northern town of Sopore, setting off a battle with security forces, paramilitary police spokesperson Junaid Khan told AFP.

The family of Bashir Ahmed Khan alleged that he was dragged out of his car after the showdown and shot dead by paramilitary troopers.

His three-year-old grandson, who was travelling with him, was later pictured sitting on his chest.

Disclaimer: The photo below on the right contains sensitive content which some people may find disturbing.

The child is pictured sitting on his grandfather’s chest.

“Locals said that he [Khan] was brought out of his car and shot dead by the forces,” Farooq Ahmed, a nephew of the deceased man told AFP.

“They told us that someone in uniform then put the child on his chest as he lay dead on the road and took photographs,” Farooq Ahmed said.

The photo of the child sat on the body of his dead grandfather was widely shared on social media.

Paramilitary spokesman Khan said the allegation was “baseless”. Police also denied the claims, saying legal action would be taken for “false reports and rumours”.

“There was no retaliation from the security forces,” Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar told reporters.

Hundreds assembled at the man’s funeral near the main city of Srinagar shouting, “We want freedom”.

Government forces have intensified counterinsurgency operations against Kashmiri fighters since a coronavirus lockdown was imposed in March.

Since January, at least 229 people have been killed during over 100 military operations across occupied Kashmir, including 32 civilians, 54 government forces and 143 fighters, according to the Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a rights group.

Condemnations pour in
Reacting to the incident, Amnesty India said that officials had violated the law by disclosing the identity of the minor.

“It is also a breach of the ‘best interests of the child’ principle as required to be the basis of any action by authorities under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a state party.”

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the image of the three-year-old sitting on his grandfather’s “lifeless, bullet-ridden body” exposed the real face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “fascist India”.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif also condemned the killing.

In a tweet, he said: “Widespread human rights abuses by fascist Modi govt constitute an acid test for the international community.”

Tweeting the picture of the deceased’s grandson sitting on his chest, Foreign Office Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said she was “searching for words to describe […] the grief & helplessness of the Kashmiri people.” (Dawn)