July 2003 News

3rd In 3 Days: 'Custody Death' Rocks J-K

17 July 2003
The Indian Express

Srinagar: Seven days after he went missing, Bashir Ahmad Sheikh, brother of a suspected militant, was handed over to his family this morning-shot dead. While police and security forces claim that he died in an 'encounter,' relatives allege that he was summoned from home by the police and was killed in custody-the third such incident in three days. Police claim that Sheikh, 35, was a militant killed in an encounter in the forests of Ganderbal. Villagers and relatives deny the police version. 'My brother was killed by Special Task Force personnel,' says an inconsolable Tariq Ahmad Sheikh, the younger brother. According to the spokesperson of the Army's Kilo Force, a joint team of the Special Operations Group and the Rashtriya Rifles had laid a siege of the forests in Ganderbal where four militants were holed up. 'The encounter lasted for half an hour in which one militant was killed, one was injured who managed to escape with other two militants. One AK-rifle was recovered from the spot. The dead militant may not have been a Pakistan-trained militant. But he was a confirmed militant.' he added. The Deputy Inspector General of Police, Srinagar, Mohammad Amin Shah said he had no information about the killing. But since the dead body was with police, they would investigate, he said. However, villagers and relatives have a different story. They allege that after several calls from SOG personnel, Sheikh drove down to Srinagar to meet them at Batamaloo. And hadn't been seen or heard since. 'One of our brothers crossed over to Pakistan two years ago. The police claim he has returned and they wanted us to guide them to his hideout. We have been pleading with them that he is still across the border. But they wouldn't believe us. So they asked my brother to come down to Srinagar for questioning. He went there on July 11 but never came back alive,' said Tariq. Out in the Eid Gah, villagers are refusing to bury Sheikh until, they say, the police turn up and register a case of murder against the Special Task Force. Over the last three days, protests have rocked Kashmir over two custodial deaths of youngsters in Baramulla and Srinagar. On Monday, people in village Jalsheeri in Baramulla in North Kashmir protested over the killing of Altaf Ahmad Dar who allegedly died in Army custody. On Tuesday, angry people spilled onto the streets in Qamarwaari, a suburb of Srinagar, protesting against the custodial killing of Mushtaq Ahmad Khanday who allegedly died in the custody of security forces.


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