Saturday, April 20, 2024

“We want justice”: Man crushed to death by CRPF vehicle in north Kashmir

On 9 March, around 11:15 am, Habbibullah Shergojri was crossing the road in the main market of north Kashmir’s Bandipora when a parked CRPF vehicle, previously stationary, suddenly started moving, crushing him to death.

“He had already crossed most of the road when they drove over him,” said Mehraj-ud-din, 64-year-old Shergojri’s nephew. “How can a driver start driving without checking all the sides?”

As he lay lifeless on the roadside, a huge crowd of people and vehicles started gathering around him. Wearing a pheran, a long and loose traditional cloak, CCTV footage of the incident shows the details of how Shergojri was crossing the road—breathing one moment and lifeless the next. 

The abruptness of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) vehicle’s movement left Shergojri no chance to escape. Its heavy tires ran over him, dragging him a few meters and killing him instantly. Minutes later, seeing the disturbance, the local police arrived and took the body with them for further investigation. 

Mehraj-ud-din was far away when he heard the news of his uncle’s death. “My friend, who happened to be there, called me. I was completely shocked when I heard about my uncle’s demise,” he said. “He was yet to be identified because of the condition of his face. I was called for identification.”

Nearly two weeks later, as per the family, the police is waiting for the postmortem report to continue the investigation. “We will get the death certificate and a copy of the FIR tomorrow,” said Mehraj-ud-din. 

As per him, the main market in Bandipora is always busy, and only small vehicles can pass through it. “What was a huge armed forces vehicle doing in the market?” he said. “It was an accident, but they were negligent and careless to not look before driving.”

Shergojri’s case is not alone. In December last year, a scooty-driver, Ghulam Hassan Magray,  was killed after being hit by a CRPF vehicle in central Kashmir Ganderbal district. In November 2023, Manzoor Ahmad Wani died after his bike was hit by a CRPF vehicle in Srinagar’s Baghat Chowk. In April 2021, for more than three weeks, 16-year-old Safran Ahmad Kathjoo battled for life in Srinagar’s hospital before he was discharged. The teenager was critically injured after being hit by a CRPF vehicle in Srinagar’s Saida Kadal area. In April 2019, a 13-year-old boy, Sajad Ahmad, was crushed to death by an army vehicle in Poonch’s Gulpore area.

“If this would have been caused by a private vehicle, the driver would have been treated harshly,” said Mehraj-ud-din.

He said that the local police had seized the vehicle but “released it later” to the CRPF. “My uncle underwent a postmortem to know the cause of death other than being hit by the vehicle. Was the driver investigated properly if he was drunk or under the influence of any substance at the time of the incident?” said Mehraj-ud-din. “Why are the laws and rules different for the forces?”

As the CCTV footage of the Bandipura incident circulated on social media platforms, users started to point out that it seemed like a “deliberate” attempt. “This clearly is a deliberate act, but let’s see how authorities paint it now…May almighty Grant peace to the departed soul!” one of the users on X wrote

Another user wrote: “Only a fool or a blind person would call it a normal accident.”

While the people of Kashmir were writing condolence messages and mourning the loss of an elderly person, various Indian users mocked the death with sarcastic and “funny” comments.

“@dtptraffic should learn from Indian army to resolve the road blockades crisis in delhi on Friday,” wrote a user, who goes by Desi Pheroun, on X, referring to the recent incident of Delhi police kicking Muslims during Friday prayers on the road.

“Indian army best army😇Hame protection deke attankwadi ko maar rahi h (They are protecting us by killing the terrorists),” wrote another user.

Maktoob reached out to Farooq Ahmad, Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) at Bandipora police station for the comment, but he refused to share details on the phone. 

However, as per the documents accessed by Maktoob, the Bandipora police has registered an FIR no. 45/2024 under section 279 (rash driving or riding on a public way) and 304A (Causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). 

“We want justice and the culprit to be punished,” said Mehraj-ud-din.” We want the incident to be investigated properly. We will follow the procedure and whatever the protocol is there, we will cooperate.”

Gafira Qadir
Gafira Qadir
Gafira Qadir is a journalist based in Kashmir, covering human rights, gender, and education.

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