Dummy parade

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More than nine months after the killing of teenager Tufail Matoo, the policeman who fired the shell that killed him is yet to be identified. The boy’s parents see it as a ‘deliberate ploy’.  P A Mushtaq reports.

Nine months after 17-year-old schoolboy Tufail Ahmad Mattoo’s killing on June 11 2010, JK police held two identification parades in March this year. Instead of making any headway, the parade almost discredited the only eyewitness, who, police claimed, identified a dummy.

But Mattoo’s lawyers have many questions which remain unanswered despite the parades. “Why is there a need to conduct a parade when the police have already identified those on the duty that day? Why internal inquiry fails to identify the personnel who fired live ammunition that day as per the log book of that day? Why is the officer in-charge not taken to the task in the case?,” asked the lawyer.

The police sluggishness, according to Mattoo’s relatives, “is obvious and seems deliberate”. They point out that police action in the 16-year-old Zahid Farooq’s killing case, allegedly shot dead by BSF personnel on February 5, yielded results in just five days with the nailing down of BSF personnel on February 10. The police investigations were able to identify the ammunition, the patrol party and even the two personnel, including a BSF commandant.

“Police know who killed my son but they are shielding them. Why it took nine months to conduct an identification parade? A normal crime is cracked in hours but why the police fail to identify the policeman who murdered my son by firing from a close range?” asks Tufail’s father Muhammad Ashraf.

The identification parades came only after the court’s repeated direction to additional district magistrate Shahbaz Ahmad Bodha, an inquiry officer in the case, and the police to allow the key witness to identify the policeman/policemen, who fired live ammunition on that day. The only eyewitness, a resident of Rajouri Kadal, claims she can identify the policemen and the patrol that fired live ammunition.

So far, police has allowed two identification parades. On March 5, the first identification parade was conducted where four suspects were produced with 32 dummies, brought from other police wings. But the eyewitness did not identify anyone in first parade. On March 16, four more suspects were produced in 32 dummies again, where a policeman Javed Ahmad was identified by the woman. Police have identified 71 policemen who were part of the deployment made near downtown Srinagar’s Rajouri Kadal on June 11.

“She (the key eyewitness) identified a dummy instead of a suspect,” Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Shiv Murari Sahai told the media after the parades. Inquiry officer Bodha, who presided over the identification parade, said, “The witness identified a police constable Javed Ahmad.”

The parade “drama” has left the Mattoo family aghast. “It’s between the court and the police department. My lawyer will fight it in the court…but the case exposes incompetence of the police. They (the police) are a bunch of crooks headed by the chief minister.”

There are chances of the eyewitness standing discredited before the court as the police are preparing to file its identification parade report. Identified policeman Javed Ahmad, police claim, is a tailor with the district police line in Srinagar. According to police records, which it will file before the court soon, the constable was at his tailor shop on June 11 and no deployment was made to northern part of Srinagar city from the district lines.

A police officer, who was part of the parade, said the identified policeman was produced before the eyewitness in a separate room. “She stood by her decision. This can discredit her as witness in the case,” said the police officer on the condition of anonymity.

A lawyer, studying the Mattoo case, said the parade was deliberately made tiresome for the eyewitness and prolonged for more than nine months. “Let’s assume the eyewitness had the memory of the crime scene and was able to identify the policemen. But over the period of nine months, the memory must have faded. The eyewitness is not that young and repeated summon by the court and the police station must have turned her edgy and iffy about the case. The identification parade should have happened in June only,” said the lawyer.

It was on June 18, 2010, the Mattoo family approached a local court after police gave out different accounts of the killing.

A police spokesman said on June 12 said: As per medical examination of the wound of the victim, the case appears to be of a deliberate murder. The police are on the lookout for the two persons who dropped the deceased at the SMHS hospital in a Maruti car and disappeared from the scene.”

However, on June 14, a post-mortem conducted at Srinagar’s SMHS hospital pointed towards firearms, which includes both rubber bullet and tear-smoke shell. The report, which was also handed over to the authorities and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, rules out bullet as the cause of death.

The Chief Minister on September 2, 2010 announced a judicial probe into 17 civilian killings that occurred in the Valley between June 11 to July 19, including Tufail Matoo. So far, the judicial commission has made no headway in the case.

“It’s a case between the murderers, their supporters and Allah. I am a victim who is being further victimized by the state government,” said Ashraf.

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