BeyondHeadlines Special Correspondent
Sri Nagar: A mass protest took place following the killing of a 25-year-old civilian in the police custody in Sopore on Sunday. Acting quickly, the government suspended three police officers and attached a Deputy Superintendent of Police. An inquiry was ordered even as Chief Minister Omar Abdullah termed the death “a gross human rights violation and inexcusable” and promised “swift and exemplary” action.
Nazim Rashid Shalla, alias Anjum, was arrested on Saturday by the J-K Police’s Special Operations Group (SOG) and on Sunday morning the police informed his family about his death. The police said they had arrested Nazim as part of the investigations into the killing of driver Mohammad Ashraf Dar two days ago.
After several hours of marathon meeting of top police brass, the state government acted against the “erring” policemen and suspended guard commander and the sentry on duty. The police also attached Deputy Superintendent of Police (Operations) Ashiq Tak and registered a murder case against the policemen. “A case of custodial killing under Section 302 (murder) of the RPC has also been registered,” said a government spokesman.
The government also ordered a magisterial inquiry into the killing. “We have ordered an inquiry into the incident. The Sopore SDM will conduct the inquiry. He has been asked to submit the report within 15 days,” Baramulla Deputy Commissioner Bashir Ahmad told The Indian Express. “I have been told by police that he (Nazim) was found dead in the lock-up but we will wait for the post-mortem report to ascertain the cause of the death.”
Omar promised a swift action. “The death of Anjum Rashid in police custody is a gross human rights violation & inexcusable. Things like this cannot be allowed to happen,” he tweeted on the micro-blogging site. “I expect the police to do nothing less than make an example of those responsible so that nothing like this ever happens again. Swift & exemplary action. No delays, no cover-ups, no excuses. That’s all I can promise & ensure. It’s not enough, of that too I’m aware.”
Son of a retired policeman, Nazim was a resident of Krankshivan colony in Sopore and running a grocery store in his neighbourhood. He was picked up by the police from there on Saturday afternoon.
“His body was swollen and there were visible torture marks on it,” said Nazim’s father Abdul Rashid Shalla. “He was sitting at his shop yesterday. Around 3 pm, the police and Army arrived and took him away. They (policemen) told me that he would be back in half-an-hour. But this morning, we were informed about his death.”
Despite a heavy security deployment — hundreds of police and paramilitary personnel were deployed across Sopore town restricting civilian movement and not allowing anybody in or out of the town including journalists — hundreds of people took to streets in Sopore, raising pro-freedom and anti-India slogans. Police canecharged the protesters, resulting in injuries to four persons.
Within few hours of the news about Nazim’s custodial death, a public event was organised on social networking site Facebook to protest the killing. The event ‘Kashmir Bandh’ asked people to observe a shutdown in the afternoon and follow Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s programme over it. “Further action would be in accordance with the Qaid (leader),” it read.
Nazim’s killing has put the Valley on edge again, especially as the rape of a 32-year-old woman in Kulgam allegedly by two “uniformed men” and the molestation of a 15-year-old girl student by a soldier at Pattan are fresh in the people’s minds.