A young man from Pulwama, who was arrested by Jammu and Kashmir police in a militancy case, died in police custody in the intervening night of 18 and 19 March at a detention centre in state’s summer capital, Srinagar.
According to the family, the victim, Rizwan Pandit (29), who was the principal of a private school, was arrested by police on Sunday, 17 March, at around 11 pm from his home. The family was not aware of his whereabouts till Monday morning, when local police told them that Rizwan had been taken by Srinagar Cargo.
His brother, Zulqarnain, said the family was informed by police on 18 March that Rizwan had been taken to Cargo detention centre located in Srinagar.
“We came to know in the morning today that he has died.”Zulqarnain, brother of Rizwan Pandit
Police Requests Magisterial Inquiry to Ascertain Cause of Death
“The police department has requested a magisterial inquiry under Section 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to ascertain the cause and circumstances leading to Pandit’s death,” officials said.
According to police sources, Rizwan has a background of stone-pelting and militancy-related cases. His family said he was booked under the Public Safety Act, a ‘draconian’ legislation described as ‘lawless law’ by the Amnesty International last year in August, and he was out on bail.
Officials added that police investigation has also been initiated in the jurisdictional area of incident. Moreover, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) also denied reports of Rizwan being investigated by them.
"He was neither called for questioning nor was he examined at any other location in connection with cases being investigated by NIA," a statement noted.
The school teacher’s death has sparked an uproar in Kashmir Valley with both the mainstream as well as separatists demanding an impartial probe into the young man’s death and exemplary punishment for those involved in the ‘murder.’
Suspicious Death Revived Old Horrors Among Kashmiris
The suspicious death has also brought back memories of the horrors that many Kashmiris have faced in Srinagar’s ‘Cargo’ detention centre where the young Kashmiri teacher died.
It is a massive concrete building in Haft Chinar locality of Srinagar headquartering the J&K Police’s elite, anti-militancy Special Operations Group.
Though not officially, the centre was ‘aptly’ named for the speed with which suspects opened up before the SOG people when the group was operationalised in 1994. The work at ‘Cargo’ remains a highly guarded secret with even the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) unable to gain access “even after multiple attempts,” according to Wikileaks.
Even a mention of ‘Cargo’ sends a chill down the spine of people who claim to have been tortured there.
Rizwan’s Family Associated With Outlawed Jamaat-e-Islami
The family of Rizwan is affiliated with Jamaat-e-Islami, an outfit which was recently outlawed by the Union Home Ministry. His father, Asadullah Pandit is rukun (basic member) of the Jamaat.
“So what if we are with Jamaat. Yes my father is Jamaat rukun. Did that give them license to kill my brother. He was working as a teacher and trying to lead a normal life but he was murdered in cold blood,” Zulqarnain said.
“Now the police will say they will probe the case but we all know there is no outcome of such probes. Guilty are never punished,” he added.