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J&K: Protests Break Out After Man Called for Questioning on Poonch Attack Ends His Life

Anees Zargar |
In a video statement prior to his death, the deceased reportedly claimed he was not facing any “pressure’” but appealed to security forces not to harass his family.

File Photo.

Srinagar: A man, who was sought by the police for questioning in the recent militant attack in Poonch, allegedly died after drinking poison, triggering protests around his native place Bhatadhurian in the Mendhar area of Poonch in Jammu.

Mukhtar Hussain Shah, who was about 50-years-old, reportedly recorded a 9 minute 45 seconds video statement before his alleged suicide. The video apparently was shot by another person. Shah died on Thursday, following which dozens, including his family, relatives and residents of the neighbourhood blocked the Jammu-Poonch highway in the area.

The protesters, which included women and the elderly, raised slogans demanding justice but also hailed the Indian Army., saying they were not facing “any harassment” from the Army. A protester said Shah was summoned for questioning by the local police authorities regarding the recent attack in the area on April 20 that resulted in the killing of five Indian Army soldiers.

“He told me he was being harassed and that he had recorded a video that I should listen to. He was worried about his family. I tried to convince him that I will talk to the security forces but he did not listen. His condition was too bad,” the protester told reporters, not wishing to be named. The protesters also alleged that the local police carried out a search at Shah’s residence.

A senior police official posted in the area, however, denied these allegations claiming that Shah was not summoned as a suspect. “His house is close to where the attack was carried out and we have called about 60 persons so far for questioning. He did not even appear for the questioning before taking this step,” the official told reporters.

The attack in the area was one of the deadliest in which militants shot at an army vehicle indiscriminately and also hurled grenades that caused fire in the vehicle. Shah, who succumbed at the government hospital in Rajouri, in the video, however, claimed that he was not facing any “pressure” from the local police or authorities but appealed that his family should not be harassed.

“I have cooperated with the police and security forces during the encounter that happened a year back and I will continue to do that this time. I am not doing it in fear or pressure but I do not want my community and my relatives to suffer because of me,” Shah said in the video statement.

The deceased also appealed to locals from his area to cooperate with the police and the forces, adding that his family, which had always supported India, was “being tortured” today. “Those who are involved in these cases (attacks) should be punished severely so that people live in peace in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

Another protester said they were worried about the family left behind by Shah and all those who are being harassed. “If we have done anything wrong or have supported militants in any way, we are ready to accept severe punishment... Our only fault is that one of our family was destroyed by militants first through brutal execution,” he told reporters.

Meanwhile, tension has peaked in the south of Pir Panjal Valley as militancy-related incidents have increased in the past few years. The highway attack is the second such deadly attack in the area claimed by an outfit – People’s Anti Fascist Front (PAFF)-- which, the security agencies believe, is an extension of Jaish e Mohammad (JeM). In October 2021, the group, which emerged after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 A, also claimed another attack that resulted in the killing of nine Indian Army soldiers in Mendhar forests.

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