Sopore youth's death sparks outrage; political parties demand impartial probe

Family of Irfan Ahmad Dar holds a protest against his death. File Pic

The death of a youth from Sopore area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district amid claims and counter claims by the police and his family members on Wednesday sparked outrage with politicians across the political spectrum demanding an impartial probe into the incident.

While the police claimed that the youth, Irfan Ahmad Dar (23) son of Mohammad Akbar Dar of Sidiq-Colony, died after escaping from their custody, the family members of the victim contested the police version.

“Our residence has CCTV cameras and you can check the recordings of a month and a half and if you find any clue, I’m ready to face any punishment you may pronounce,” said Dar’s brother who was also detained and let off by the police after his health condition “deteriorated” in the police custody. “You punish me also if anything (subversive) is found from our mobile phones which are lying with the police,” he told reporters, according to news agency GNS.

He said that he was released at 11 pm and the family was told to take him home “after my health condition worsened”. “He (Irfan) was arrested at 12:45 hours while I was detained at 4 pm. They said that there was a militant at our residence. No recovery (of ammunition) was made as claimed by the police. Civilians accompanied them (police) during the raid. Ten days ago they said there was a person (militant) hiding at your residence and we told them to check the CCTVs.” he said.

He said that Irfan was not only his brother but a friend who would share all details with him. “hH would remain with me for the entire day. He had no spare time.”

However, the police have claimed that the youth was an overground militant worker and that he died after escaping from their custody.

In a statement, a police spokesman said that on September 15 at about 12:45 hours, one OGW namely Irfan Ahmad Dar (Age about 23/24 years) S/O Mohammad Akbar Dar R/O Sidiq-Colony, Sopore was apprehended and two Chinese Hand Grenades were recovered from his possession.

In this regard, the police said, a case (FIR No. 257/2020) U/S 18 ULA (P) Act, 7/27 A. Act was registered in Police Station Sopore and investigation taken up.

“During the course of investigation, a Police Team visited Chairdaji area of Tujjar-Sharief along with OGW for affecting some more recovery on the disclosure of the OGW,” the police said, adding, “In the meanwhile, 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 Stone Quarry of Tujjar-Sharief.”

Accordingly, the police said the body was taken to the nearby PHC, wherefrom shifted to PCR Kashmir Hospital for “fulfilling medical and other legal formalities and final disposal.”
Meanwhile, mainstream political parties demanded a thorough probe, even as Peoples Democratic Party termed the youth’s death as “custodial murder.”

“This excruciating episode has once again served as a grim reminder of how truth is mangled and stories are fabricated to justify killing innocent civilians in Jammu and Kashmir,” a spokesman of the PDP said.

“In order to justify its repressive, unconstitutional, inhuman and extremely violent measures upon the people of Kashmir, all the government of India needs is a militancy narrative. The armed forces in Kashmir have been given absolute impunity to detain, torture or kill innocent people and that is how the old blooded murder of 23 yr old Irfan Ahmed Dar, a shopkeeper by profession wrongfully accused of being an OGW, has occurred,” said the spokesman, in a statement, adding: “The wounds inflicted upon the families of those Kashmiris who recently were killed by the forces of Shopian were still fresh and the government has perpetuated yet another act of terror upon an innocent civilian of Kashmir.”

National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah expressed outrage over the killing and sought a time-bound probe into the “circumstances leading to the death.”

While expressing shock over the incident, he said that there were contrasting versions of the circumstances, leading to the killing of the young man “who the police are claiming had escaped from their hold during a search operation.”

“The family of the deceased has a different view, necessitating for an impartial and time bound inquiry into the circumstances leading to his killing.”

“The administration cannot possibly win back the confidence of the people if encounters like Shopian or suspicious killings like the one that has taken place in Sopore continue to take place incessantly, or are allowed to pass without the facts being established and guilty, when determined fully punished,” he said.

He impressed upon the Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha to personally ensure that the circumstances behind the “mysterious killing” of the young man are brought to light and guilty, “if any”, dealt stringently under law.

He said that such incidents have no place in a civilized society and that honor and dignity of life should be respected at any cost. He also said such incidents would only add to the ever increasing gulf of mistrust between the government and the people.

Apni Party headed by Altaf Bukhari demanded a high level probe into the “circumstances surrounding the death of the youth.’

“In a statement issued here, Javid Baig, spokesman of Apni Party demanded that the government must constitute an inquiry into the incident in order to ascertain the veracity of contradictory claims made by police and family of the deceased youth.”