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Exhumed, ‘beautiful constable’

Srinagar, March 10: A bereaved mother’s tears today further stained the reputation of Kashmir’s scandal-hit police force, but this time for “killing” one of their own.

Shameema Mattoo’s wails echoed across the Valley as the Jammu and Kashmir government exhumed a body for DNA matching following relentless demands from a family that the highly-decomposed remains were of their missing daughter, police constable Neelofar Akhtar.

“My daughter was killed because she was beautiful,” sobbed Neelofar’s mother Shameema Mattoo, who repeatedly cursed a deputy superintendent of police.

“She was deputed at Badami Bagh cantonment against her wishes and she disappeared while on duty.”

The exhumation came weeks after the Valley was rocked by allegations that the police murdered innocent civilians and then passed them off as militants to earn rewards and promotions. Several bodies have been exhumed so far, and the scandal has led to the arrest of a number of police officers, including a senior superintendent of police and a deputy superintendent.

Neelofar had disappeared mysteriously in February last year. Several weeks later, when the police fished out a body from the Dal Lake, her relatives claimed they had recognised her from pictures of her body.

But the police buried the body, leading to calls for its exhumation all these months.

“We had recovered this unidentified body and we are trying to match its DNA samples with those of Neelofar’s family,” said superintendent of police (Srinagar North) Anand Jain, who monitored the exhumation.

Investigations, he added, delayed the exhumation.

Neelofar’s family is tight-lipped on why and who could have killed her. But in private her relatives say “her higher-ups were trying to exploit her”.

Neelofar’s husband Tariq Ahmad said he is convinced the remains were of his missing wife. “Nobody knows her better than me. I have recognised her hair. For God’s sake, tell me why she was killed,” Ahmad said.

“We have been begging the police to exhume the body but they never listened to us to cover up this case. Even police inspector Sandeep Kour said she was Neelofar but expressed helplessness. If I don’t get justice, I will burn myself.”

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