Photos circulating on social media show Riyaz Ahmad Shah (21) of Srinagar’s Chattabal area lying dead on a footpath late on Tuesday night – dressed in a green kurta, with his black helmet still on. A white Scooty lies next to him, splashed with blood.
The photos don’t show that his abdomen had a deep wound – a pellet cartridge fired from close range burst inside his abdomen and there were “more than 350 pellets” lodged in his chest and abdomen. Sources privy to the X-ray report say his vital organs – including lungs and kidneys – were ruptured by the minuscule metallic pellets.
According to the Riyaz’s brother, Shakeel Ahmad, he was returning home from an ATM at Habba Kadal area, where he worked as a guard, on his Scooty. His scooty – now with “some small scratches” – rests at the Karan Nagar police station.
“At around 10.15pm when I had called him, he said he was on his way but then he did not come,” Shakeel told HT, adding he had called again after some time and Riyaz had informed he was almost there.
But, as the family kept waiting, Riyaz did not turn up. Instead, at 11.30pm Shakeel got a call from to come to SMHS hospital, where he found his dead brother.
Relatives alleged that Riyaz – “an innocent man”—was shot in cold-blood by “CRPF personnel” who had a bunker near the area he was found dead.
Police registered an FIR (numbered 57/2016) at the Karan Nagar police station against “security forces” in Riyaz’s death and investigation is on, the station house officer Pervaiz Ahmad informed HT.
When asked about the allegations against CRPF personnel, CRPF DIG KK Sharma told HT there was no “motive” for the jawans to attack Riyaz. “Why will they kill him without any reason? Is there even one reason? I think these are well-planned activities by anti-social elements to malign the force,” he said.
Syed Ali Geelani, the senior Hurriyat leader, has termed the death as a “cold-blooded murder” and the killing, observers say, has deteriorated the Valley’s situation which was limping back towards normalcy. On Wednesday, angry youth had taken out massive protests in Srinagar as Riyaz was buried.
The circumstances around Riyaz’s death – who shot him and how – are not clear as of now, but there are many questions bewildering the family.
Police confirmed to HT Riyaz was shot with a pellet gun from point-blank range and the pellet cartridge burst inside his body releasing hundreds of tiny metallic particles.
In most pellet injuries in Kashmir since 2010 – when the gun was introduced as a “non-lethal weapon to control mobs” – the victims have burst of pellets coming at them but not an entire cartridge getting burst inside their bodies.
The nature of the injury, relatives said, was an indication of the fact that whoever shot Riyaz had an intention to kill him.
In cases of close range pellet firing, the consequences are either death or permanent disfigurement or blindness – like that of 14-year-old Insha Malik blinded by pellets last months or JKLF chief Yasin Malik’s cousin Yasir killed by pellet firing in 2010.
Moreover, as residents and police sources said, in the area where Riyaz’s body was found – nearby SMHS hospital – did not have any law and order situation for the last three days, refuting any suggestions that the personnel might have used pellets to “control a mob”.
Large stains of blood were found on the road and poles near the hospital, suggesting the body was dragged from to the spot where it was found from a distance.
Also, the family asked who else could be responsible for the killing apart from the police and the CRPF, because only they have access to the particular weapon.
“As police and CRPF refuse to accept responsibility in Riyaz’s death, do they mean to say that the common man has access to that weapon?” said prominent civil rights activist Khurram Parvez.
“The intention and the understanding of the soldier is that Kashmiris need to be killed and because of that no matter what weapon he uses, the outcome will be violent,” Parvez added.