Leaders of several political parties in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday sought an impartial investigation after the police found the body of a man nearly three months after he went “missing” while in Army custody.

Abdul Rashid Dar, a resident of Kunan village in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, had been picked up by the soldiers of the Army’s 41 Rashtriya Rifles unit for questioning from his home on December 15. A day later, the police had informed Dar’s family that he had escaped from the Army’s custody. Since then, his whereabouts were unknown.

In a statement on Wednesday, the police said that Dar’s body was recovered from a forest in Kupwara and handed over to his family.

Shabir Ahmad Dar, his elder brother, who works as a special police officer with the Jammu and Kashmir Police, accused the Army of killing him in custody, The Wire reported.

He also dismissed the Army’s claim that his brother had fled from their custody, describing it as a “blatant lie to cover up the murder”.

He told Scroll in December that Rashid Dar had never been in trouble with the law enforcement agencies. “He has no police record,” he had said. “There’s not a single case against him. Even when there would be demonstrations in the past, he would never join.”

Ahmad Dar on Wednesday claimed that he saw red marks on his brother’s body, suggesting “as if it had been set on fire”.

Soon after the body was handed over to the family, a large crowd turned up to join a protest in Kupwara. The protestors alleged that Dar was killed in custody and demanded justice.

Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday wrote on Twitter that such incidents “have been normalised in the absence of any accountability” after the Centre revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution.

“Extremely disturbed to see pictures of the mutilated body of Abdul Rashid from Kunan Poshpora,” she said. “Wasn’t allowed to visit the family under the pretext of security. What transpired after the Army picked him up for questioning months ago is anybody’s guess.”

The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said that “a genuine probe” needs to be ordered in the case.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader MY Tarigami noted that Jammu and Kashmir has a history of enforced disappearances.

The United Nations defines enforced disappearance as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the state or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of the state, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law”.

According to rights group Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, 8,000-10,000 people in Jammu and Kashmir have been subjected to enforced disappearances between 1989 and 2006.

Tarigami on Thursday demanded that the “mysterious death” of Dar needs to be thoroughly investigated.

People’s Conference chairperson Sajjad Lone also sought a fast and impartial inquiry in the matter, while National Conference leader Sarah Hayat Shah questioned the Centre’s claims of normalcy in the Union Territory.

Since 2017, Dar is the third civilian picked up or detained by the Army to have gone missing.

Also read: A Kashmir family waits in dread for news of son ‘missing’ from Army custody