An autorickshaw driver died on July 9 after being tortured by the police in Srinagar, his family has alleged, Rising Kashmir reported on Sunday.

One police official has been suspended in connection with the alleged custodial death of 21-year-old Muslim Muneer Lone, according to The Wire.

Lone was detained by the Nowgam Police on the morning of July 9 for his alleged involvement in a theft case. In the afternoon, the same police team went to Lone’s house and told the family that he had lost consciousness, his mother Shafiqa told The Wire.

She said that the police team took her to a different location and asked her to enter a vehicle parked there.

“When I got into the car, I saw Muslim [Lone] lying on the middle seat,” Shafiqa told The Wire. “He couldn’t talk...They [the police] made me sign some papers and gave me Rs 400.”

The police then brought Lone to his home.

“They hauled Muslim into a room with their hands,” Lone’s mother said. “One of the cops asked us to switch on the fan and open the curtains. Muslim was unresponsive but they told us that he had lost consciousness.”

When the police team left and Lone’s condition did not improve, his family members found that he was not breathing. His cousin Zeeshan told The Wire that Lone was taken to a hospital where he was declared dead.

The family members then brought back his body and staged a protest, along with other residents of the area.

The police, however, have dismissed the family’s claims. Senior Superintendent Rakesh Balwal told Rising Kashmir that Lone died due to an overdose of drugs.

“During questioning, his [Lone’s] health condition got worse as he had taken heavy drugs and was not responding well,” Balwal claimed. “After that, he was handed over to his family members.”

The police official said that Lone was brought to the police station at 11 am and was handed over to his family two hours after that. “We asked the family to take him to the rehabilitation center,” he added.

Zeeshan, however, claimed that the police were trying to cover up the crime.

“Has the police ever caught him with drugs?” he told The Wire. “There is no police case against him anywhere in Kashmir. They are justifying his death by saying that he was a drug addict. We demand an impartial probe.”

One of the locals, Imtiyaz Ahmad, told Rising Kashmir that Lone had no first information reports registered against him. “Except for justice, we need nothing,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lone’s body was taken to the SMHS hospital in Srinagar on Sunday for a postmortem examination, after which it is likely to be handed over to his family for his last rites.

On Monday, a police spokesperson said that an inquiry has been launched into the death under Section 174 (inquiry into suicide and killing cases) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Following this, an official of the Nowgam police station was suspended.

“Srinagar police reiterates its resolve to conduct the departmental inquiry and proceedings of 174 CrPC in a professional and transparent manner without any favour or bias,” a police spokesperson said.

Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar told The Wire that the police were waiting for Lone’s postmortem report.