Shafiqa had purchased new clothes for her son, unaware that he wouldn’t be alive the next day, on Eid. Since then, she has been clinging to his last memory, a newly purchased shirt, that he was supposed to wear on Eid.
A day before, it was around 9:30 am on the morning of July 9, Shafiqa was alarmed when two police personnel from Nowgam police station in Kashmir Valley, in civilian attire came to her house, asking for her 21-year-old son, Muslim Muneer. He was detained by the Jammu and Kashmir police for his alleged involvement in a theft case under FIR No. 95/2022.
“She [Shafiqa] was assured that her son would be brought back to her safely,” said Zeeshan Showkat, Muneer’s 26-year-old cousin.
At around 4:15 pm, Shafiqa received a call from the police. She was asked to reach the Nowgam police station. As she refused to do so, two policemen came knocking at her door, again in civilian attire and took her along, in a private vehicle. A few yards away from home, the car was stopped and Shafiqa was asked to sit in another private vehicle.
On opening the door of the vehicle, Shafiqa found her son lying unconscious on a seat while five more policemen sat inside. As she continued asking questions about his condition, Shafiqa was dropped back while her son was carried by four policemen to her home.
“He went with them on foot in the morning and they brought back his dead body in the evening. Two men held him by his arms and two by his feet,” said Showkat.
Shafiqa, who had lost her husband, an army officer, to an illness in 2016, was at home while all of this happened with her elder son, Momin Muneer, 26. One of the police officers as per the family, handed over 400 rupees to her and left. “‘Rakhlo hum bhi apke bete jaise hain.’ They had asked her to keep the money as they said they were also like her son,” said Showkat, adding that she was made to sign some papers.
Before leaving at 4:38 pm, one of the police officers made a missed call to his phone and asked Shafiqa to give him a call, just in case Muneer’s condition did not get better. After the police left, Shafiqa kept waiting for her son to revive while she could feel his body slowly turning cold.
After a while, Showkat received a phone call from Muneer’s panic-stricken mother. On reaching his house in Natipora area of Srinagar, Showkat found Muneer’s cold dead body on the floor while his mother kept begging the relatives for help.
“We rushed him to a nearby private hospital where the doctors declared him dead,” said Showkat. The family along with Muneer’s dead body took to streets where they conducted a peaceful protest to demand justice.
The police claimed that Muneer died due to a worsening health condition during the questioning as he had a drug overdose, the family questions the claim. “How could someone with such a high intake of drugs walk himself from his home to the vehicle in the morning when he was taken? Also, if his condition worsened during the questioning, wasn’t it their responsibility to take him to the hospital instead of bringing him back home?” questioned Showkat.
While the police claimed that Muneer was taken around 11 am in the morning and brought back around 1 pm in the afternoon, Showkat said that the family has CCTV camera footage of the timings and will bring forth the footage once the legal proceedings take place.
“We cannot trust the police blindly but we hope that the investigation will be done in the rightful manner,” he said.
Following the protests on the night of July 9, the police took Muneer’s body to Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital for post mortem. A day later, his body was returned on the evening of July 10 and later, buried on the same night.
On July 11, a police spokesperson said that an inquiry has been launched into Muneer’s death under Section 174 (inquiry into suicide and killing cases) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Meanwhile, J&K Police suspended one of its officials from Nowgam police station.
Maktoob tried reaching out to Vijay Kumar, Inspector General of Police (IGP) and Rakesh Balwal, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) to follow up on the investigation and post mortem reports, however, they refused to speak.