‘We Were Locked Inside a Room, Rizwan was Dragged Away’- Family to Continue Battling for Justice

March 27

Since their partition in 1947, both India and Pakistan have claimed their stake over Jammu Kashmir. The state comprises Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions, and has since remained the epicentre of innumerable political hiccups, with India and Pakistan having fought three wars over it. The region has a huge geopolitical significance.

Pertaining to the geo strategic and the military significance of the entire region, threaded with the huge water resources it holds back in its glaciers, this Himalayan region is likely to be the flash point of a vigorous conflict in coming years. Kashmir, located in the feet of Himalayas, is the only Muslim majority state in India.

On Tuesday morning, Thousands attend funeral of a 29 year old, Rizwan Ahmed, an Awantipora resident, who was allegedly killed in the Police custody on the Night of 19th March, hours after he was detained by Jammu Kashmir Police from his home during a nocturnal raid.

Will they bring me back a brother whom i grew up with? he asked as tears rolled down his cheeks.

“I do not have a sense of colors, none of my senses is working,” Rizwan’s Mother Haleema/ Photo- Umar fayaz~ The Kashmiriyat

In another Room of the two storeyed house of Rizwan, Haleema Banoo, the mother of Rizwan almost unconscious is being consoled by a young girl, whom i am informed is the cousin of Slain Rizwan pandith.  “He was the light of my eyes, I’m eagerly waiting to serve food to you,” Rizwan’s mother wailed, while asking me,”What is the colour of your waist coat?” she asks me and falls mute again. “I do not have a sense of colours, none of my senses is working, i wish i had shouted and chased them when they took him away,” she responded as i asked entered the as tears rolled down her eyes, the woman besides her trying to console her said, “This is what mothers in Kashmir face every day,”

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Late on the night on Saturday, someone tried to break into our house, my brother went down, Mubashir said, and he was asked his name, he did and was asked to stand up on a side, then my other brother went, he too was made to stand in a queue, when i went down, i was told the same, he told The Kashmiriyat as he detailed what exactly transpired on the night when Rizwan was arrested.

“They (Jammu Kashmir Policemen) locked us inside a room, while one of them told my mother, Mouji keinh chun parwaay, aes chi thoda pooch taach karin, aes trawhoun yi wapas’ (There is nothing to panic, we will send him back after questioning), however the others shouted angrily and asked us all to keep mum, they dragged Rizwan out of the main gate of the house,” Mubashir told The Kashmiriyat.

He said that the next day, they were informed by the Police Station that Rizwan was in their custody.

“The family members had gone to the local police station on Monday evening to seek the release of his brother. “But we were told there that he has been shifted to Cargo (the headquarters of the J&K police Special Operation Group in Srinagar),” he told The Kashmiriyat.

”It was almost a normal day, i was in school, someone from the family had come to meet me,” Mubashir said , adding that it was not normal for someone to come and see him at the school, i panickngly ran, and was informed that Rizwan had been injured in the Police custody.

By the time i was home, 14 Kilometeres away from the school, i knew Rizwan had been murdered, he told The Kashmiriyat.

Rizwan Asad Pandith, the school teacher killed in custody might have died due to ‘multiple injuries’. “Rizwan was detained during a nocturnal raid by Police,” his brother told The Kashmiriyat adding that he was lodged in CARGO, an SOG camp in Srinagar.

Mubashir said that he (Rizwan) had been harassed by the police in the past too and had been arrested on two occasions in 2015 and 2018. Last August, he was arrested by the police and booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA), which gives the state the power to jail a person for up to two years without a judicial trial.

The Police on had claimed that some Over Ground workers of Militants had been arrested in the Orchards near Islamic University in Awantipora on 26 of August. “My brother was detained on 16 August, ten days before Police claimed to have arrested him.”

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“My brother was falsely shown as a threat to law and order. His only crime was that he was a teacher. He spent more than six months in jail at Kathua (in Jammu) before he was released in February this year,” said Mubashir, who is also a teacher at another private school.

Rizwan had completed an MSc in chemistry from Dehradun and was planning to apply for a PhD at Kashmir University, said Mubashir, who is eldest of six siblings.

Probe Called

The civil administration, following a request by the police department, has ordered a magisterial inquiry under Section 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to ascertain the cause and circumstances leading to Pandit’s death, the officer said.

The CrPC section pertains to inquiry by a magistrate into cause of death, including when any person dies while in the custody of police.

The Initial probe has found that Rizwan, died because of “extravasation of blood” — the leakage of blood from a vessel into the surrounding tissues — caused by multiple injuries, According to a report by Indian Express, “The blood loss in soft tissues due to multiple injuries was extensive internally, and this must have led to irreversible shock. There was no blunt injury or damage to the internal organs,” he said.

“Rizwan’s face was swollen, his left eye had turned black, there were severe injury marks on his thighs… cut marks and deep burns were also visible on his thighs… There were stitches on his head,” his brother Mubashir told The Kashmiriyat, adding that when the body of Mubashir reached home, he was naked and had no clothes on his body.

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The incident evoked condemnation from all quarters of the society. Reacting to the incident, Omar Abdullah demanded exemplary punishment to those responsible for the death of Pandith.

National Conference on Wednesday said that the Government must clarify under whose custody the murder of Awantipora youth happened. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has denied reports stating that Rizwan Pandith died while in their custody.

The Jammu Kashmir Police denied the allegations and in fact, a case under FIR number 09/2019 under section 224 RPC (A person escapes or attempts to escape from custody in which he is lawfully detained for any such offence) has been registered against Rizwan Pandith of Awantipora.

Rizwan was a school Principal and a former guest lecturer at Islamic University of Science and Technology. As the news about his death spread, authorities closed the University to stop possible protests.

When looking in the statistics of killings, sexual violence and destruction, it only integrates to an everyday anxiety that Kashmir’s youth struggle to cope with. Despite the fact that there have been a ‘rehabilitation schemes’ launched by the Indian state – among them Udaan, Sadbhavana and others like Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship schemes – to regain the trust and confidence of youth, the reality is that very little has changed on ground.

We do not know what path we may pursue, if Rizwan does not get justice.” Students of Rizwan pandith/ Photo- Umar Fayaz~ The Kashmiriyat 

The students of Rizwan reached his residence in large numbers and while speaking to The Kashmiriyat they said, “We do not know what path we may pursue, if Rizwan does not get justice.” He was an inseparable part of our lives, we have failed to come in terms with the news of his death, a student, Mueez Shabir of Sabir Abdullah Public School where Rizwan worked as the principal said.

”Though we have hundreds of reasons to believe against the facts that Justice might be ever served, but we have not lost faith,” his father told The Kashmiriyat, adding that an investigation is already underway and is being conducted by administrative officials.Today, Kashmir is one of the most militarised zones of the globe as over 700,000 Indian soldiers accused of atrocities and endless human rights violations are stationed here.

The Kashmir valley is now often gripped with deathly silence, with tangled coils of concertina wires blocking its alleys. Indian troops in battle gear rove the streets in this Himalayan valley of fabled beauty..

According to a 49 Page report by the United Nations on Human Rights, “There is an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and abuses and deliver justice for all people in Kashmir, who for seven decades have suffered a conflict that has claimed or ruined numerous lives.”

Data released in 2011 by Government agencies stated that, in the last 21 years, 43,460 people have been killed in the Kashmir insurgency. Of these, 21,323 are militants, 16868 civilians and 5,369 policemen. Human rights Organizations have blamed both Indian security forces and Kashmiri separatist militants for human rights abuses.

Unending Cycle- Friend Joins Militancy

On March 21, a Day after Rizwan was killed, Shahid Manzoor son of Manzoor Ahmed who is a resident of New Colony in Awantipora area of South Kashmir’s Pulwama District released an audio announcing that he had joined Militancy in Kashmir against the custodial killing of his friend, Rizwan Ahmed Pandith.

Releasing an audio on Social Media, Shahid has announced that he has joined Militant outfit Hizb ul Mujahideen,he has alleged that he had been picked up alongside Rizwan Ahmed by Government Forces the last year. “We were tortured mentally and physically inside the jail,” he is heard saying in this audio.

As soon as i heard that my friend (Rizwan) had been killed inside the custody, i decided to join the queues of Militancy, he is heard saying, adding, “The probes and investigations are a mere eyewash, nothing has been achieved in Kunan Poshpora and Shopian Double Rape case probes yet,”

“In 2018, 250 militants have been eliminated which is the highest in a decade. And even as 2019 began, we already have more than 50 militants neutralized, the Indian Army does not think there is a grave situation,” A high rank official of Indian Army said.