‘He left home the previous day after a small argument, I saw him near the house in the evening’
On July 25, as the dusk was falling, a phone call from an acquaintance informed Amreena Qayoom, 26, of Batengoo Anantnag that her brother Imran Qayoom, 32, is in Government Medical College Anantnag.
Amreena informed her father Abdul Qayoom, 56, who hurriedly left home to meet his son at the hospital.
Qayoom rushed to the hospital but could not find his trace anywhere.
Imran, as per the family, was a drug addict at one point of time; however, had rehabilitated to some extent and was doing better than earlier.
According to a medical record accessed by Free Press Kashmir, Imran was undergoing treatment for drug abuse. “He was treated at a drug de-addiction centre in Srinagar and was then undergoing counseling at a government-run psychiatry hospital in Srinagar,” the family told Free Press Kashmir.
However, the medical records show improvement in his drug withdrawal symptoms since last year. The last time Imran visited the hospital was in December 2020.
“Days before, I had a small argument with him, and he left home,” Qayoom said, “he looked distressed and fatigued”.
“He had almost recovered and I did not want him to get into the quagmire again.”
At 9:00, in the same evening, Qayoom had his dinner and left home to search for his son.
He spotted Imran near a local petrol pump, around 500 meters from their residence, where his relatives also live.
Imran would often visit relatives and stay there if he didn’t come home, Qayoom said.
“I asked him what he was doing there, and asked him to come home,” Qayoom says.
“He was puffing a cigarette and tried to hide it seeing me around.”
Qayoom was relieved after seeing him. But little did he know that this is the last time he is meeting his son.
The next day, Qayoom, an employee at JK State Road Transport Corporation, left for Kulgam where he is posted as a driver in the department. On routine, he left with his government vehicle and was in the district’s Kund area.
Later in the day, the Sarpanch of the village, Abdul Rashid, 55, phoned Qayoom and informed him that police has asked him to report along with his son Imran at the concerned police post.
At 2:00 pm, the Sarpanch told Free Press Kashmir that he was again called by the official and asked to report at the police station along with Qayoom quickly.
Qayoom thought that it might be for the same drug-related case. “Imran was into drugs at one point of time and had two cases against him at the police station,” the father said.
Barely five minutes had passed and an unknown caller who identified himself as a police official called Qayoom, and asked him to immediately report at Khanabal. “I’m on duty in another district and cannot come anytime soon,” Qayoom told the police officer.
“You have to identify a dead body,” the official told Qayoom over the phone.
Qayoom along with the Sarpanch went to the police station. At the police station, police showed them a photograph of Imran and told them that he has been killed in a military operation against militants in Kulgam.
“They told us he was a militant and was killed in a military operation,” Qayoom said as he could recognize the blue shirt Imran was wearing a day before when he spotted him near the fuel station. “The blue t-shirt was the only thing I was able to recognize but the Sarpanch identified the Imran clearly,” Qayoom said.
The Sarpanch lives next to Qayoom’s house and is familiar with family matters.
The family was still in shock and could not believe that the photograph showed by the police was of their kin Imran. The uneasiness prompted Amreena and Qayoom’s other son Zahid Qayoom, to visit the police station again and check again. The family was still praying that all this might be some misunderstanding and the slain would not be their kin.
“We had not told about the Imran’s killing to our mother,” said Zahid, Qayoom’s second elder son. “She came to know later when almost every relative of ours had gotten the news.”
Zahid, a postgraduate management student, said he along with Amreena went to police station Qaimoh, which falls under Kulgam jurisdiction. “We were waiting outside the police station and an hour later we were told to visit Khanabal station,” Zahid said.
At Khanabal, we identified his (Imran’s) photograph and informed the family once we reached home. “But it was just a photograph, the body was not shown to us,” he said.
At 5:30 pm, Qayoom received another call from the police and he was told to leave for Srinagar and see his slain son for one last time at Police Control Room (PCR).
“We quickly arranged a vehicle and drove to Srinagar,” Zahid said. However, once they reached PCR, they were not allowed to go inside from the gate. “We waited for an hour to see Imran but were told that he was buried at 2:00 pm,” he said.
The family said their kin has no other record in police books other than the two cases under NDPS Act.
“He has been named in two FIRs filed under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act,” he said. “But he was never into any kind of militant activity.”
The next day, the family wrote a letter to Deputy Commissioner Anantnag, Senior Superintendent of Police, and Lieutenant Governor and sought an investigation into the matter.
“My son was moving freely like any other civilian. Last time he was seen by me at a petrol pump on 24-07-21 which is nearby our house, within less than 24 hours I saw the photograph of his dead body assuring me that he was killed in a fake encounter at Munad Kulgam,” the letter reads, a copy of which lies with Free Press Kashmir.
“Now request your good self-kindly, look into the matter personally and help the family to retrieve his dead body and an FIR should be lodged to investigate the matter properly so that Justice is delivered as we are law-abiding family,” the letter added.
Meanwhile, as per the family, Deputy Commissioner Anantnag Dr Piyush Singla has assured them an investigation in three days and Anantnag police have also assured the same.
The family would have resorted to protests and other demonstrations “but we want to maintain law and order and proceed legally,” they said.
A police officer told Free Press Kashmir that Imran had “fired upon the armed forces during a search operation in Munand Kulgam and was killed in retaliation.”
Police in a statement had claimed to have killed an “unidentified militant” in the operation.
Confirming the family’s appeal to police and administration officials for investigation, the officer said: “The district administration has received the application from family and will investigate accordingly.”
Senior Superintendent of Police Anantnag did not respond to repeated calls from Free Press Kashmir. The story will be updated once the officials respond to the journalistic queries.