The death of a 23-year-old man in alleged police custody in Sopore town triggered protests in North Kashmir as residents and political parties demanded action against the policemen “involved in the killing”.
The police said that the man escaped from custody and his body was found later, but his family alleged it was “murder in custody”.
According to a statement from police, Irfan Ahmad Dar, a militant overground worker (OGW), was arrested on Tuesday afternoon and two hand grenades were recovered from him.
An over ground worker is someone who helps militants or terrorists with logistical support, cash, shelter, and other infrastructure.
“During the course of investigation, a police team visited Chairdaji area of Tujjar-Sharief (village) along with the OGW for affecting some more recovery on the disclosure of the OGW,” the statement said. “In the meanwhile, the OGW while taking advantage of darkness and terrain managed to escape… and during search the body of OGW was found near a stone quarry of Tujjar-Sharief.” Post-mortem was conducted at the police hospital in Srinagar.
The family denied the claim that Irfan was a militant OGW. Irfan’s uncle Mohammad Ramzan said, “He was a shopkeeper. He was picked up from his shop yesterday around 1 pm.”
Irfan’s brother Javed Ahmad Dar, who was also picked up on Tuesday and released later in the evening, said his brother’s death was a “cold-blooded murder”.
The Dars and local mosque committee sought Irfan’s body, but the police reportedly denied it and buried him at Sonamarg.
“This has been done to bury all evidence,” a relative alleged.
Political parties condemned the “custodial killing”. “The cold blooded murder of 23 yr old Irfan Ahmed Dar, a shopkeeper by profession wrongfully accused of being an OGW is a grim reminder of how truth is mangled & stories are fabricated to justify killing innocent civilians in J&K,” Iltija Mufti tweeted from her mother, PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti’s Twitter handle.
“The administration can’t possibly win back the confidence of the people if ‘encounters’ like Shopian or suspicious deaths like Sopore are allowed to pass without the facts being established & guilt, when determined, fully punished. @manojsinha_ must intervene in both these cases,” tweeted NC leader Omar Abdullah.
People’s Conference president Sajad Lone accused the police of inventing a story. “Sopore incident just doesn’t add up. They have done a bad job even at inventing a story. The guilty need to be punished,” Lone tweeted.
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