Conflict

To get justice for Rizwan, family ready for exhumation and a legal battle

students praying at the grave of Rizwan. (Photo: Muneeb-ul-Islam)

After Rizwan Pandit’s ‘custodial killing’, his family on Thursday addressed a hurriedly-conveyed presser where they detailed the chilling ‘torture’ and vowed to fight a legal battle for bringing the ‘perpetrators to justice’.

On Wednesday, March 20, as social media feeds announced the 19th anniversary of Chittisinghpora Massacre, mourners silently walked inside Rizwan Pandit’s home in south Kashmir’s Awantipora. Barely 12 hours before, in a cloudy dusky night, the grieving family had buried their 29-year-old son, with a sense of utter helplessness. They were now wondering about his fate, sitting silent and solemn, grappling with their own troubled thoughts. Their son hadn’t just returned home lifeless from police custody, but with blatant bruises, blue-beaten body and a swollen abdomen.

“What did he do to deserve such a terrible fate,” Rizwan’s father broke down like a baby. “Even if they wanted to question him in some case, did he deserve to be killed and that too in such a ghastly manner?”

None, in a packed house of mourners, could answer the heartbroken father’s cries. Only a simmering silence intermittently broken with sighs shadowed the passage of yet another young Kashmiri — who was working to shape up the future of the new generation, as a school principal, in his hometown, Awantipora.


A teenager stood motionless in the family’s courtyard, where on the first day, women mourners veered crazily—consoling the unsinkable feeling of the sudden passage of their “beloved son”. Gaunt-faced, skinny Zubair was disturbingly gazing the grieving footfall with a blank pair of moist eyes. He happened to be the dead principal’s student.

Numbed with grief, the boy wore a wasted face—telling upon his wailing state of mind over the departure of his beloved tutor. He echoed Rizwan’s father: “What was my teacher’s fault to suffer such a terrible fate?” Saying this, he broke down, unable to contain another gush of emotions. He cried, like others, over what some mourners called the “cursed fate” of a Kashmiri caught in a perennial political problem. It was yet another stirring mourner assembly in south Kashmir, where a sense of anguish ran deep over the “growing travesty of life” in the valley.

“When I went to take a final goodbye look at Rizwan Sir at his bier, I froze,” Zubair recalled his funeral participation on late Tuesday night. “His nostrils were blood-smeared. His left eye had turned black with beating. His lifeless body was screaming of terrible torture.”

Mourners gathering at Rizwan’s home.

Rizwan was arrested in a nocturnal raid from his home on Sunday night, March 17. His family members say they received a quick, cautionary word from police: “Be quiet on his arrest.” But a day later, they came to know that their son was handed over to J&K Police’s Special Operations Group camped in Cargo, Srinagar. He was reported dead in police custody there on March 19.

Admitting the custodial death, police called for a separate probe besides a magisterial enquiry in the case. Back home, however, Rizwan’s siblings termed it a farcical exercise, citing the “last 30 years of miscarriage of justice” in Kashmir.

ALSO READ: A day after his 29th birthday, Awantipora’s school teacher came out dead from police custody

On Thursday, a new twist came in the case when Rizwan’s father along with his son addressed a presser where he countered the police version stating that Rizwan “attempted to escape” from police custody at Khrew, Pulwama.

“This is insane, how come a person who was brutally tortured will try to escape from police custody,” said Mubashir, Rizwan’s brother. “We are ready for exhumation in case police still have doubts.”

But even if he had attempted to run, the sibling continued, “does that justify his custodial killing? After killing him in cold-blood, they’re now covering the case up with their concocted versions.”

The principal’s family detailed the “torture” during the presser, even showing photos of his badly bruised and beaten body.

“Rizwan’s left eye had turned black, and the left side of his face was swollen. There were severe injury marks on his thighs, cut marks and deep burn marks were visible on his thighs. There were stitches on his head, his abdomen was swollen,” Mubashir said. “It’s clear that a hot iron and a cutter were used to torture him.”

To vindicate the family’s version, Indian Express reported on Thursday that the school teacher might have died due to ‘multiple injuries’.

“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,” the report quoting an official privy to the finding, said. “He had cuts and injuries all over his body. He also had a haematoma (a solid swelling of clotted blood within the tissues) in his left arm and eye.”

Ruling out a heart attack, the official told the prominent Indian daily that a “roller” may have been applied over his legs, causing the veins and arteries to rupture.

“There are no two ways about it that my brother was murdered in police custody,” Mubashir said. “And now, to bring his perpetrators to justice, we are ready to fight a legal battle.”

 

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