A 21-year-old was found dead with pellet injuries to the stomach near SMHS Hospital in Srinagar’s old city area Tuesday night.
According to his family, Riyaz Ahmad Shah, a resident of Chattabal locality, was killed when he was returning home from Kanikadal, where he was posted as an ATM guard. His brother claimed “360 pellets” were found inside his body.
The family alleged that personnel of a CRPF camp located near Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital had killed Riyaz “without any provocation”.
Police initially claimed Riyaz had been stabbed, but an autopsy revealed multiple pellet injuries had caused his death. Doctors who conducted the autopsy said pellets had been fired from close range at the youth’s abdomen.
Following the autopsy, police registered a murder case at Karanagar police station against unknown security personnel.
The killing triggered fresh protests in the city, especially in Chattabal. At 1 pm on Wednesday, after his body was handed over by the police to his family, residents of Chattabal, Safa Kadal and Eidgah defied curfew and attended his funeral.
“I called my brother at 10 pm Tuesday night and asked him when he will reach home; he said he was on the way. After 20 minutes, I called him again and he said he was a few minutes away. When he didn’t return, I called him around 10.30 pm, but this time he didn’t pick up,” said his elder brother Shakeel Ahmad, who works with NDTV. “I was worried and called dozens of times, but there was no response.”
Shakeel said that at 11.30 pm, he received a phone call from an unknown number asking him to reach SMHS Hospital immediately. “I couldn’t believe my eyes — my brother was lying there, dead. I was talking to him an hour ago and now I had to collect his body.”
Shakeel claimed that an auto driver had seen his brother lying on the road near his two-wheeler, close to the CRPF bunker. The auto driver did not stop, but informed volunteers at SMHS hospital. “I was told by people that my brother was lying close to his scooty and CRPF men were watching him. He had already died when volunteers took him to the hospital,” Shakeel alleged.
Riyaz’s brother Nissar Ahmad Shah claimed volunteers had video footage showing CRPF men near the spot. “My brother had pellet injuries; only CRPF and the police have pellet guns in Kashmir. It is cold-blooded murder as no protest had taken place at the spot where my brother was killed,” he said. Nissar said Riyaz worked as an ATM guard at night and a salesman at a kitchenware shop during the day.
He said that when the J&K floods destroyed their home, Riyaz had used all his money to reconstruct it. “It pains when an innocent and hardworking youth is killed without any fault. He was neither a protester nor a stone pelter,” Nissar said.
Shakeel claimed that the autopsy report handed to the family mentions that an entire cartridge of pellets was emptied on his brother’s body. “There were around 360 pellets in his body; he was shot with an intention to kill,” Shakeel alleged, demanding punishment for those who killed him.
When contacted, CRPF spokesperson Rajesh Yadav told The Indian Express that the CRPF unit near the crime scene had denied firing any pellets. “Even the CCTV footage does not show anything like this happened,” he claimed. But he admitted that further investigation is required.
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court had on Tuesday issued notices to the state government and the Centre, seeking a response over a PIL calling for a ban on pellet guns used by security personnel to deal with protests in the Valley.