Man Found Dead, Protests Rock Anantnag

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Separatists, Locals Claim Custodial Death, Police Denies

SRINAGAR: Commotion gripped the southern township of Anantnag (Islamabad) on Tuesday after a local resident, missing since yesterday, was found dead near a railway track in his native village on the outskirts.

Angry protests broke out in the town, with separatists and locals terming the death as a custodial killing, but the villager’s family has not claimed that he had been arrested.

Authorities declined to divulge details of the post-mortem report, and the police denied that the body bore marks of violence.

Thirty-five-year-old Bilal Ahmad Dar was found dead by locals this morning near the railway track in his native village of Monghal on the outskirts of Anantnag town, reports said.

People in the area surged into the streets as the news spread, carrying the body in a procession to the town for an autopsy at the main hospital.

Violence broke out outside the Mirza Afzal Beg Memorial Hospital and the police resorted to tear gassing as the large crowds wrested the body back from authorities after the post-mortem for burial in his ancestral graveyard.

Dar’s brother, Muhammad Abbas, said that Bilal had left home shortly before noon on Monday and failed to return till late in the night.

“I rang him up on his mobile, but his phone was switched off,” he said.

Even as the town was rife with speculation that Dar might have been among the three locals picked up by the police the previous day, Abbas said that he had met one of the detainees, Tariq Ahmad Bhat, in lock-up who denied Bilal had been with him.

“I had contacted all relatives and friends for Bilal’s whereabouts but drew a blank. I also went to the police station where I talked to Bhat,” Abbas said.

“I learnt of Bilal’s death when I went to the police station this morning to lodge a missing person’s report,” he said.

Even as authorities stepped up security measures in the town, Dar’s post mortem was carried out at the Mirza Afzal Beg Memorial Hospital where the deputy commissioner of the district and the senior superintendent of the police too were present.

Full with a seething crowd, the premises rang out with slogans as people demanded authorities to unmask Dar’s killers.

The crowds took control of the body once again when the police tried to send it home in an ambulance, and carried it in a procession back to his native village for burial.

The police had to resort to tear gas shelling outside the hospital when some youth pelted stones at the deployments as the body was being taken back.

Three personnel, including an officer, were said to have been injured in the brick-batting.

A police statement issued this evening said that a case had been registered under section 174 of the RPC for further investigations.

Police said that preliminary investigations indicated that no marks of violence had been found on Dar’s body.

Meanwhile, separatist groups have termed Dar’s death as a custodial killing, saying he had been arrested along with some other locals the previous day.

The chairman of the Hurriyat (G), Syed Ali Shah Geelani, said that killing was condemnable.

“The state police has geared itself up to wreak atrocities, and the SSP for Anantnag is in the forefront of suppressive tactics against innocent people,” Geelani said.

“Police officers and men must shun their anti-people policy forthwith,” he said.

“HOSPITAL STAFF BEATEN”

Staff at the district hospital (also known as the Mirza Afzal Beg Memorial Hospital) said that police had burst into the premises and beat them up after some stone pelting incidents in the vicinity.

Protesting hospital employees said that they had gone on a strike after the assault, and would not return for work until authorities assured them of protection.

Locals in the Jangal Mandi area said that police and paramilitary men had entered homes and attacked inmates with canes after coming under heavy stone-pelting from violent mobs. 

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