Twenty-four-year-old auto-driver Riyaz Ahmad Khanday of Aangmattipora (Anantnag), who was critically injured in an attack by a group of people throwing stones on vehicles on March 8, died at a hospital in Srinagar late on Monday night.

Informed sources said Riyaz, who is survived by his parents, a brother and two sisters, died at the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Soura. As the body was being carried to the South Kashmir district of Anantnag, reports indicated building up of tension between the residents of Tikabagh, where the auto-driver lived, and Kralpora (Mattan), where the six accused live.

Deputy Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar told The Hindu that the criminal case registered at the Mattan Police Station on March 8 was now being converted into a murder case. He said four of the accused were arrested and a search was on for two more of their associates.

SSP Anantnag Ramesh Kumar Jalla said Riyaz was the first civilian to have died in the stone-pelting by unruly groups enforcing the Hurriyat-sponsored shutdown. He said Riyaz was carrying two labourers in his load-carrier when the group intercepted him and objected to his defiance of the shutdown call from the Hurriyat Conference and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Mashawarat at 7.35 p.m. on the Anantnag-Pahalgam road.

“Our sources learned from the residents that Riyaz questioned the repeated shutdown calls and argued that the separatists would not take care of his family if he did not work. They got angry and threw a stone which hit his head and he got critically injured,” Mr Jalla said.

SSP said a search was under way to arrest two more of the accused, who had gone into hiding. The separatist leadership’s reaction was not available immediately.