Sopore youth dies of torture in police custody | Twitter-glued CM assures swift action | 3 cops suspended; DSP attached | 6 injured in protests

By: Wasim Khalid
Srinagar: A 28-year old shopkeeper was allegedly tortured to death in police custody in north Kashmir’s Sopore town on Sunday.
Following the incident, tension gripped the entire Sopore area with additional forces of police and CRPF rushed in to control the angry residents.
The family members of Nazim Rashid said their son was picked up by the police’s Special Operations Group (SOG) and army on Saturday afternoon for questioning in connection with the killing of a civilian in the area.
“The SOG along with army knocked our door and asked for Nazim. I told them he is on his shop. They asked me that they want to pick him up for tentative questioning in connection with a killing. I resisted, but they told me they would be releasing him soon. Then they whisked him away to the local town hall,” father of the deceased, Abdul Rashid Shalla told Greater Kashmir.
“After two hours I called the local army officer who was accompanying the SOG men. He told me he has handed Nazim to SOG personnel who were interrogating him. He told me that my son was being interrogated in presence of a top cop. I could listen to the screams of my son that time. Later the army officer handed over the phone to some SOG personnel. They threatened me and asked me to get the mobile of Nazim. I told him I am at home and it would take time to reach there. They told me that their boss doesn’t like late comers and has no time to listen to excuses,” he added.
Shalla has served in police department as an Inspector. “Today I came to know through journalists that Nazim has died in police custody,” he said.
“They did not hand over the body. They have conducted the postmortem in presence of a magistrate,” he said.
Nazim alias Anjum was a resident of Alamdar Colony of Krankshiven locality and owned a provision store there.
Shalla said that he saw the body and there were visible marks of torture. “His body was swollen since they forcibly fed him with buckets of water. His belly was swollen and there were visible marks of torture on his body,” he said.
“Allah never show a father the body of his son in a such a condition. I am shattered,” he screamed.
His words were echoed by a government official who was present at the time of post mortem.
“The body is swollen and torture marks can be seen on the body,” the official said, pleading anonymity. “The factual cause could be found after the autopsy report comes.”
Describing as an “inexcusable gross human rights violation” the custodial death, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today promised that swift and exemplary action will be taken in the case.
“The death of Anjum (Nazim) Rashid in police custody is a gross human rights violation and inexcusable. Things like this cannot be allowed to happen,” Omar wrote on the micro-blogging site Twitter.Com.
The Chief Minister said he expected police to make an example of those involved in the death of the youth so that incidents like these do not occur again.
“I expect the police to do nothing less than make an example of those responsible so that nothing like this even happens again,” he wrote.
Omar said there will be swift and exemplary action in the case.
“Swift and exemplary action. No delays, no cover ups (and) no excuses. That is all I can promise and ensure,” he said.
The government said the in-charge of the Police Component Sopore, Guard Commander and Sentry have been placed under suspension. The Deputy Superintendent Operations (DSP) Sopore has been attached.
“Further action shall be taken based on the medical report and the findings of the Magistrate,”a government spokesman said in a statement.
It further reads that the District Magistrate has appointed a board of doctors and initiated proceedings under section 176 CrPC as provided under law in such cases. “A case of custodial killing under Section 302-RPC has also been registered,” it added.
The government said Nazim was arrested yesterday in the killing of Ashraf Dar, based on the statements of local witnesses, the family and technical evidence.
“He died during the intervening night while still under arrest,” the government handout read.
The decisions were taken in a meeting convened by the Minister of State for Home, Nasir Aslam Wani. Principal Secretary Home, B. R. Sharma, DGP, Kuldeep Khoda, IGP Kashmir Zone, S. M. Sahai and other senior police and civil officers participated in the meet.
At least six people were injured after clashes erupted between protesters and forces against the custodial killing.
Hundreds of people from Krankshivan Colony, Alamdar Colony, Baba Raza, Bagh-e-Gulshan, Al Kounsar Mohalla and adjoining localities took to streets and staged pro-freedom and anti-India demonstrations.
They were shouting pro-freedom, anti-India and anti-police slogans. “We want freedom,” the protesters shouted.
As they tried to take out a march, the CRPF and police deployed in strength there swung into action. They fired tear gas canisters and cane charged the protesters. The angry protesters retaliated by pelting stones.
The residents said six youth suffered minor injuries.
The police said Nazim was picked up for questioning in connection with the killing of a laborer, Muhammad Ashraf Dar of Chankhan on Wednesday evening. “He was with the militants when Ashraf was shot dead,” a police officer said.
However, the family refutes the claims.
“Nazim had gone out of the house to recharge his mobile connection. Accidentally, he met Ashraf on his way to the shop. Ashraf had picked up house hold items worth Rs 847 from his shop and not paid,” Shalla said. “The moment he met Ashraf and asked for money, a man appeared there and opened fire. Ashraf fell on the spot while as Nazim fled as the assailants also shot towards him to scare him away.”
The distraught father said that Nazim told them the whole story the moment he arrived home that day.
“He fell unconscious,” Shalla said. “You tell me what was his sin? Why they killed him brutally?”
The police wearing riot gear along with hundreds of CRPF men were deployed in Sopore and Krankshiven locality to prevent any protest. The forces were also deployed in Sangrama chowk up to Sopore bridge.
Protests erupted in Alamdar Colony, however additional contingents of police were called in to disperse the people. The press was barred from entering the colony.
This is the second custodial death in Kashmir since 2009. A youth, Manzoor Ahmad from Aloochibagh area in the city, died in SOG custody in May 2009.
Large contingents of police personnel have been put on stand by in Police Control Room Srinagar to meet any eventuality.


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