A trail of blood leads from a CRPF camp to the spot where the simple, hardworking Riyaz Ahmad lay dead on the road in the dead of the night
Srinagar: On Wednesday midnight, a volunteer at the SMHS hospital named Rayees Ahmad was preparing to leave the hospital premises. As he boarded his two-wheeler he heard two loud gunshots. Rayees could make out that the shots were fired at a nearby place.
“My colleagues and I were worried. But it was quite late for the government forces to fire at somebody. There were no protests going on at that moment either,” said Rayees.
Just when Rayees thought that there was nothing wrong, the driver of a load-carrier came panting towards the hospital. He told the group of volunteers standing there that there had been an accident outside the hospital.
“He was breathing heavily. He asked us to help a person who had suffered an accident. I and a few others went with him. I was the first to notice the body that was lying in a pool of blood,” Rayees recounted.
He said that when he first reached the spot he saw a Scooty lying on the ground at some distance away from the body. There were two clear blood marks on the body. “One mark was where the bullet had hit him. The other was where it had exited,” Rayees said.
The body was of Riyaz Ahmad Shah, a 22-year-old man who worked as an ATM guard. He was a resident of Chattabal area of Srinagar.
“There was a trail of blood all along the Medical College road, to where the CRPF camp was (near the shrine of Syed Mansoor Sahib),” Rayees said.
This correspondent went to the spot that Rayees had mentioned. There were still dried blood stains along the road, stains that grew larger as they led from the CRPF camp to the spot where the corpse was lying. The trail of blood was such that it suggested that the body was dragged along the road and later placed at the spot.
Zubair, the childhood friend of the killed man, said that there was no doubt that the CRPF men murdered Riyaz. “While he was on his way back from Kani Kadal, where the ATM that he guarded was, the CRPF men first shot him near the fountain that is near Syed Mansoor Sahib’s shrine, and then they placed his body on the roadside. They even put a helmet on his head, after it had fallen off when they shot him. There are clear marks of bruises on his head indicating that the helmet was forcefully put on his head. They were trying to make it look like an accident. But the blood stains on the road show that he was dragged along the road. People who saw the corpse saw clear bullet marks on the body.”
Zubair said that Riyaz was a gentle and hardworking young man. “He worked in the day as salesman at a crockery shop at Nowhatta and at night he worked as ATM guard. He never even participated in any protests, let alone stone-pelting,” Zubair said.
Shakeel Ahmad, brother of Riyaz, said that the Mehbooba Mufti government had “failed” people. “Every day ministers like Naeem Akhtar talk of safeguarding the future of Kashmiri children. Is this what they mean? Kill them wherever you find them? My brother was an innocent man who was busy leading a simple life, but they killed him,” Shakeel said.
Neighbours and friends of Riyaz said they will avenge his killing. “The harassment of Burhan’s brother led to the creation of the militant Burhan. How many Burhans will the killing of Riyaz give rise to? There is no option left other than the gun. We will avenge the killing of Riyaz if the murderers are not brought to book,” they said.
Police officials declined to comment on the circumstances of Riyaz’s death. The report of a police autopsy, conducted at the police control room Srinagar, said the death was caused by pellets. Another autopsy conducted at SMHS hospital reported more than 300 pellets in his body, 50 of them in his hip.
‘Chattabal has lost its best boy’
At Chhatabal, where Riyaz Ahmad lived, the very air feels tense. Black flags hang from every house, some of them bearing the words “Shaheed Riyaz”. Women peep through the windows looking out for the body of Riyaz which was at the police control room till late Wednesday afternoon. There is sound of some sobs and wails, but overwhelmed by pro-azadi and anti-India slogans that erupt every now and then. Small groups of people talk in glum voices of the “cold-blooded murder”, while elderly men praise the simple way of life of Riyaz.
“He used to pray five times a day. He was so busy with his life that we hardly saw him. I can say with assurance that he never hurt anyone,” said an elderly man of the locality.
Youth are brimming with anger. They said that in Riyaz they have lost the best boy of the locality. “He did not have any bad habits. He never smoked; rather, he would scold us for smoking or if we indulged in any bad activity,” said his friend Zubair.
Locals also expressed despair of ever being able to live a peaceful life in Kashmir. “If they can kill someone as gentle and peace-loving as Riyaz, they can certainly kill me, or for that matter anyone. I have lost all hope in the system,” said a white-bearded octogenarian, Abdul Samad.