Custody Death Marks CM’s Month In Office
2 December 2002
The Indian Express
Srinagar: As the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led government in J&K completed a month in office today, police ‘‘credited’’ him with the first custodial killing, that too near his Nowgam residence. The death, soon after his promised ‘‘healing touch’’ to the Valley, has come as a major embarrassment to his government and MLA Javid Mustafa Mir has been assigned the damage-control exercise. The victim, Abdul Hamid Wani, was a mason. He was allegedly tortured to death at Nowgam Police Station, which is near the Chief Minister’s residence. Hundreds of people descended on the streets at Mochua on the outskirts of the city today to protest against the killing. They shouted anti-India and pro-freedom slogans and burned tyres to block the road here. A magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the death and the SHO Nowgam police station, Gazanfar Ali, has been shunted to District Police Lines, Srinagar. Wani’s relatives say the SHO had picked up the mason on his way to Chanapora on Tuesday. He was tortured for five days before police admitted him to the Institute of Medical Sciences, Soura, on Sunday. He died in the hospital today. The police had claimed that Wani tried to hang himself from an electric wire in the lock-up. The victim’s wife, Fareeda, says the police had refused to let her see Wani at the police station. ‘‘The SHO told me that my husband had some arms in his possession. They said he will be killed if he did not hand over the weapons,’’ she adds. ‘‘A postmortem would be conducted in the presence of the magistrate and the process filmed to avoid any controversy,’’ an officer said. The MLA, who visited the family today, has taken a strong note of the killing. A senior leader of the PDP alleged that a strong lobby in ‘‘police and administration is trying to sabotage the process of a healing touch’’. Sources say the SHO in question was suspended while he was in charge of Achabal, Anantnag, following the killing of nine civilians during a protest demonstration at Brakpora in April 2000. The police admitted that Wani was not a militant but had a pistol, which was being used by the local mafia for extortion. A police officer said the pistol belonged to three militants killed by the BSF two years ago.