India claims the dead men were armed fighters, but families claim they were innocent civilians.
Indian security forces said they killed three fighters in Kashmir’s main city Srinagar after a shootout on Wednesday, but families of the dead said they were innocent civilians.
India has been quelling unrest in the disputed Himalayan region for decades and has killed more than 200 people this year, official data shows.
Rarely, however, do families immediately challenge victims’ allegiance to armed groups.
Police in Kashmir this month filed charges against an army officer and a civilian for allegedly killing three workers and laying down weapons to pass them off as armed fighters.
“Parents may not be familiar with the activities in their neighborhoods,” Vijay Kumar, senior Kashmir Valley police official, said of the men killed Wednesday, adding that they were supporters of armed groups and were probably planning an attack.
A rifle and two pistols were recovered from the site of the shooting, he said.
An Indian military spokesperson declined to comment, referring the matter to police.
Bashir Ahmad Ganai, grandfather of Aijaz Ahmad Ganai, 25, who was killed in the protracted shooting in Srinagar, told reporters his grandson was not a fighter.
“He was a student. Why did they kill him? he said during a demonstration by family members outside a police station.
Athar Ahmad, 27, who was also shot, studied at the University of Kashmir and left his home on Tuesday to fill out an academic form, his sister Rifat Wani said.
Rebel groups have been fighting Indian soldiers since 1989, demanding independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan.
The fighting killed tens of thousands of people – most of them civilians.
Rights groups say cash rewards given to government forces for killing suspected fighters and emergency military laws help perpetuate rights violations. Authorities deny the allegations.