The J&K government ordered a judicial inquiry on Friday into the mysterious death of a National Conference (NC) leader Syed Muhammad Yousuf, who was allegedly called for a meeting by state home minister Nasir Aslam Wani in Srinagar on Thursday afternoon. The family of the victim cries foul play and alleges "it is a custodial death".
"My father received a call from Wani (home minister) around 3 pm on Thursday. He was asked to meet the home minister. Around 5:45, one of my relatives received a call from my father. He heard heated arguments on the phone before it went into a switch off mode by 6 pm," said Syed Talib Hamid, son of the victim Syed Muhammad Yousuf, a resident of south Kashmir's Anantnag district.
Yousuf, who, according to Hamid, was close to chief minister Omar Abdullah and NC president Farooq Abdullah, was declared dead by the police in the morning. "My father died at Wani's house. We will lodge an FIR with Wani the main accused in the case. If my father was with the Crime Branch, who broke the news to us, why didn't they inform us about his custody last night," Hamid told the Hindustan Times. He said the police are not returning two cell phones that carry the evidence.
Accusing the police of cover up, Hamid, who is a PhD student at Srinagar's Sher-i-Kashmir Agriculture University, said, "the police are dishing out stories like he was unwell and vomited and died a natural death in a police hospital. It's a custodial killing," said Hamid.
"I want justice in the case so that such killing is not repeated with anyone hereafter," said Hamid, who along with other family members protested in Srinagar.
Despite repeated attempts, IGP crime Raja Aijaz Ali, the home minister and chief minister Omar Abdullah did not respond to the Hindustan Times' call for their version.
An official spokesman, pleading anonymity, confirmed that the state government has approached Kashmir's chief justice asking for two sitting judges, to investigate the death.
Opposition Peoples Democratic Party leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig alleged that "three NC leaders Muhammad Yusuf Bhat, Muhammad Yusuf and Abdul Salam Reshi were asked to present themselves at the chief minister's residence on Thursday.
"Two NC workers are in the police custody. The death of third NC leader is mysterious and disconcerted as it happened at the highest corridor of power. We do not want to prejudge but it is mysterious whether the person died at CM's residence or home minister or police custody," said Baig in a hurriedly called press conference.
The PDP said it's more mysterious as to why DSP Shabir Ahmad of the CM's security, two other police officers, Nasir Khan and S P Singh, were transferred on Wednesday only.
Demanding stepping down of the chief minister and home minister, Baig said: "The police transfers are mysterious and points towards mighty people. These officers could be witnesses in the case or may be part of the crime…Caesar (referring to Abdullah) cannot be investigated till Caesar is there. Caesar has to step down," said Baig adding, "there should be judicial probe by a sitting judge".