Extrajudicial killings have been widely reported in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989 with the onset of insurgency. Immunity for security personnel has dimmed prospects of free and fair justice for the victims. A large number of civilians have been killed in crossfire during anti-militancy operations or crackdowns on public protests. But staged encounters and custodial killings have not been infrequent. The malevolence and excesses of  Jammu and Kashmir Police have matched the Army’s in the accounts shared by victims and human rights groups.

Twenty-something Muneer Lone died last year, allegedly because of excesses committed in custody at Srinagar’s Nowgam Police Station. On July 9, 2022, Lone was picked from his house in a theft case, but he died within hours in mysterious circumstances. According to the statement given by the young man’s family, which was reported in local publications, he was picked up in the morning and the police came by again in the afternoon to ask his mother, Shafiqa, to accompany them to the police station. Muneer, the family was told, had lost consciousness.

The policemen stopped their vehicle midway and took Shafiqa to another car where her son lay unconscious. Instead of taking Muneer to hospital, the police escorted mother and son home. (At some point during those stressful hours, the police made Shafiqa sign some papers and gave her Rs.400, according to her statement to a Srinagar court.) The family rushed him to a local hospital where he was declared brought dead.

The J&K Police responded to the incident with denial and counter accusations. An inquiry was initiated and at least one policeman, whom the victim’s family had accused of foul play, was suspended. But the police insisted that Muneer was not tortured in custody. They claimed that his health condition deteriorated during interrogation because of drug overdose.

Rakesh Balwal, SSP Srinagar, gave a statement to a local English daily that “during questioning, his [Muneer’s] health condition got worse as he had taken heavy drugs and was not responding well. After that, he was handed over to his family members.” But Lone’s family maintains there were torture marks in his body. Only after the victim’s family filed a petition in a Srinagar court was an FIR registered against the suspect police officers…

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