Kashmir's southern district of Shopian on Tuesday witnessed protest after the mysterious death of a 22-year-old youth on Monday night prompting National Conference and People's Democratic Party legislators to demand probe into the incident.
People in Balpora area came out in anger alleging that Aaqib Ahmed Bhat was beaten to death by security forces over some altercation. Bhat, locals said, was a tanker driver and would supply water to Army and CRPF camps in the area for past two years.
"He was beaten up by the forces. His body bore torture marks," said one of the family members of the deceased.
Police, however, said that the young man was "overrun by his own water tanker" when he was repairing it and are ruling out any mischief in the case. "On Monday night we immediately reached the district hospital where Bhat was admitted. He had told his uncle that he was injured by his own water tanker. We recorded the statement of his uncle," said station house officer of Shopian police station, Muzaffar Ahmad.
The officer said a helper of another water tanker supplying water to the security forces camps at the time was witness to the accident. "He told us that the deceased came to him looking for the driver to help him in repairing the tanker. The helper was sleeping in his tanker while his driver was away when he heard a loud cry. Bhat was lying on the ground while the tanker had moved some meters ahead of the youth," the SHO said.
Amid the conflicting versions, People's Democratic Party leader and local MLA of Shopian, Abdul Razaq Zawoora has demanded a magisterial inquiry into the incident. Ruling National Conference leader and deputy chairman of state Legislative Council, MY Tang has also demanded "immediate enquiry in the matter so that culprits be brought to book immediately".
The death comes a week after the killing of a 20-year-old Hilal Ahmad Dar by army in northern district of Bandipora. Although army maintained that Dar was killed when he walked into an ambush, locals took to streets dismissing the army claim. The state government and army ordered separate probes after people alleged that Dar was killed in a staged encounter by army men.
Separatists were quick to lambast the state and central government over the driver's death. "Our youth are being killed on a daily basis in Kashmir valley. Yesterday it was Bandipora, today it is Shopian. Not a day passes in valley when we don't face state terrorism in one form or the other," said hard-line separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani in a statement.