SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir’s northwestern town Sopore and its neighbourhood are tense in the aftermath of alleged extrajudicial killing of a local youth. Internet services were early Wednesday withdrawn from the area and police and paramilitary reinforcements fanned out “as a precautionary measure”.
The police, however, claimed the youth Ifran Ahmed Dar was an ‘Over Ground worker (OWG)’ of a separatist militant outfit who tried to escape from their custody and that later his corpse was found in a neighbouring village. They, however, didn’t say how he was killed.
The family of the youth termed it as ‘cock and bull story’ and also denied Dar was involved in any unlawful activity. “The police are lying. My brother was killed in cold-blood. He would work with me at our family shop from 7 am to 9 pm. He had nothing to do with militancy or militants,” said his elder brother Javaid Ahmed.
A statement issued by the J&K police here said that 23-year-old Dar was found dead after he escaped from police custody.
Dar was picked up by the police from his residence in Sopore’s Sidiq Colony at around 12.45 pm on Tuesday and, as per the police claim, two Chinese hand grenades were recovered from his possession following which the police registered an FIR under Section 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act at a local police station, the statement said.
According to the police, “During the course of investigation, a police team visited Chairdaji area of Tujjar-Sharief (about 13-km from Sopore town) along with the OGW for effecting some more recovery on his disclosure”. The police statement added, “The OGW while taking advantage of darkness and terrain managed to escape regarding which a separate case FIR No. 71/2020 U/S 224 IPC was registered in Police Station Bomai and during search the body of OGW was found near a stone quarry of Tujjar-Sharief”.
The police statement did not say how Dar was killed.
His brother Ahmed said that he too was picked up by the police for questioning a couple of hours after their house was searched by the police and his younger brother taken along. “I was unwell and when they thought my condition might deteriorate, I was sent home at 11 pm,” he told reporters.
Strongly denying that his brother or any other family member was involved in militancy, Ahmed said, “He was not just my brother, he was my friend too. He would share each and everything with me. He would work at our shop from 7 am to 9 (or 10 pm). Nothing was hidden to me.”
He also said that he had, in response to the police’s charge that militants had stayed at their house, asked them to check the footage of the CCTV installed at their premises. You can have a look even now at the past one and a half month’s footage. You may also examine the mobile phones which have been in my, my brother’s and other family members’ and are now with the police.” Asked about the police’s claim that two Chinese grenades were recovered from his brother’s possession, he quipped, “Nothing incriminating was found by the police from him or during the search of our house. If it is proved my brother or any other family member was involved in any unlawful activity we are ready to accept any punishment,” he said.
Several J-K political parties and leaders have condemned the alleged “extrajudicial murder” of the Sopore youth and termed the police statement as “blatant lie”. Former minister and People’s Conference chairman Sajad Gani Lone tweeted, “Sopore incident just doesn’t add up. They have done a bad job even at inventing a story. The guilty need to be punished.”
Former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah wrote on micro-blogging site “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”. Seeking J-K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha’s help, he said, “He must intervene in both these cases”.