A 25-year-old’s death in an encounter in the forests of Tral sparked violent protests in the town on Tuesday. After thousands of men and women attended the funeral of Khalid Muzaffar Wani, protesters took to the streets and clashed with police and paramilitary forces. In the ensuing scuffle, the mob snatched a rifle from one of the security personnel. As protesters pelted stones, police fired teargas shells to disperse them. More than a dozen people were injured in the clashes.
Meanwhile, Khalid’s family alleged it was a case of custodial killing by the Army.
“I looked at every inch of his body, from head to toe, and there were no bullet marks. If my son was killed in an encounter, why didn’t his body have a bullet wound?” Khalid’s father Muzaffar Ahmad Wani asked. “It was a custodial killing… He was tortured. All his teeth had been damaged, his nose was broken, and as was his forehead and skull, perhaps by gun butts. His only fault was that he was a militant’s brother,” Wani alleged.
According to a press release issued by the Army, Khalid was “operating as an over-ground worker” for a terrorist organisation and was trying to get three youths to join “militant ranks”.
But Wani and others in his village had a different version. Wani, a principal at a government higher secondary school, said his son was “tortured to death” because his younger brother Burhan is a militant.
Khalid, who was pursuing a postgraduate degree in economics, was killed on Monday morning by the Army in Tral’s Kamla forests. Three men who accompanied him to the forest are now in police custody. Villagers claimed Khalid and his three friends had gone to the forests to meet Burhan, Khalid’s younger brother and a Hizbul Mujahideen militant. They further claimed that Khalid was picked by the Army following a brief shootout between the Army and the militants, and killed in custody.
“They (the Army) tried to fake an encounter,” Wani said. “They put a camouflage shirt and a torn pheran on his body.”
On Tuesday morning, police said they had recovered another body from the forests — that of Younis Ahmad Ganaie, a youth who allegedly joined militant ranks last week. “Investigations conducted so far revealed that Khalid, along with three of his associates, had gone to Kamla forests to meet his brother Burhan, an active terrorist, and his associates. While they were having a meeting, they saw the approaching Army patrol, which led to exchange of fire,” Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Javid Mujtaba Gilani said. “Today, while searching the area, one more body was recovered. The deceased has been identified as Younis Ahmad Ganaie, an active terrorist of Tral,” Gilani added.
Gilani said the cause Khalid’s death would be known only after the autopsy report comes in. “It will take some days,” he said. However, Wani said no post-mortem examination was conducted on his son’s body.