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Awantipora teacher killed in police custody

Torture marks on body; city DM orders inquiry; police says deceased was ‘suspect in militancy case’

Syed Nashir Ali Gillani

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Srinagar, Mar 19: A youth from Awantipora town in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district was killed in police custody in Srinagar during the intervening night of March 18 and 19.
The deceased was identified as 28-year-old Rizwan Assad Pandith, M.Sc in Chemistry, who worked as Principal at Sabir Abdullah, a local private school, and also ran a tuition institute.
He was arrested from his home on Sunday, March 17 by a Police party led by a DSP rank officer, his brother Zulkarnain said.
“Yesterday (Monday), we went to the police station where we were told that my brother was in the custody of Cargo guys,” Zulkarnain said.
‘Cargo’ is a counter-insurgency police camp located in Srinagar.
He added that on Tuesday morning the family came to know that Rizwan was “killed in cargo.”
“It is a cold-blooded custodial murder,” Zulkarnain alleged.
“My brother was innocent. He was running a tuition center and was working as a Principal of a local private school. We fail to understand what his crime was and why was he killed?” he said.
Zulkarnain added that his brother was not affiliated with any militant organisation.
“He was associated with Jamaat-e-Islami. Is that a crime? My father too is a member of Jamaat,” he said.
The family, later in the day, refused to take back the body from Police Control Room Srinagar amid protests and clashes in Awantipora.
Mubashir, Rizwan’s elder sibling, told The Kashmir Monitor over the phone that the family was asked to receive the body from Police Control Room, Srinagar, however, they refused telling the police that they should themselves bring the body back.
“Finally the Awantipora police handed over the body along with other documentation. We will perform the jinazah by 9 pm (Tuesday),” Mubashir said.
He added that Rizwan was arrested on “frivolous” charges, slapped with Public Safety Act (PSA) on 26 August 2018, and shifted to Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu, where he was kept for five months.
The PSA, he added, was eventually quashed by a local court in Pulwama but the police kept detaining Rizwan and released him on January 6, around 20 days after the court order.
“Since then, he was busy with his routine work and was living a normal life,” he said.
Mubashir said that Rizwan’s body carried clear torture marks.
“His left eye had completely blackened, his nose was still bleeding and there were several torture marks on his body. His stomach had swollen a lot. It clearly shows he died of torture,” he said.
A police spokesperson said that Rizwan was a “suspect” in a militancy case investigation.
“He died in police custody. In this matter, while following the procedure laid down in section 176 of CRPC, a magisterial inquiry is underway. Separately police investigation has also been initiated in the jurisdictional area of the incident,” police said.
Unconfirmed reports had linked Rizwan’s detention with recent NIA raids, however, a spokesperson of NIA denied their link with the case.
“Emphatically deny reports linking NIA with Rizwan Ahmad of Awantipora. He was neither called for questioning nor was he examined at any other location in connection with cases being investigated by NIA,” the NIA spokesperson said in a statement.
In the evening, District Magistrate Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, told a local news agency that they have started proceedings into the case under the magisterial probe.
“The inquiry will be conducted by the Additional Commissioner Srinagar. We will complete the probe soon and submit the report to the government,” news agency Kashmir News Service quoted Choudhary saying.
Soon after the news about the killing was shared, youth came out protesting in parts of south Kashmir and Srinagar.
The authorities at Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) in Awantipora had already closed the varsity as a precautionary measure.
In Srinagar, shopkeepers at Maisuma and downtown areas including Nowhatta and Rajouri Kadal downed the shutters in protest.

NIA denies involvement

Srinagar, Mar 19: Amid outrage over the death of an Awantipora resident in police custody, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday said the deceased was not examined by the probe agency.
“NIA emphatically denies reports linking NIA with Rizwan Ahmed resident of Awantipora,” the probe agency said, in a statement, issued on Tuesday.
“He was neither called for questioning nor was he examined at any other location in connection with cases being investigated by NIA.”
Rizwan Assad Pandith (28) died in the custody at CARGO camp in Srinagar last night, triggering widespread condemnations and protests in Kashmir.
Separatists have called shutdown in Kashmir tomorrow to protests his custodial death.
Earlier, reports had said that Pandith was detained by the NIA few days ago.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said on Twitter that Rizwan was, as per sources, picked up by NIA few days ago and was lodged in CARGO camp.

Spontaneous shutdown, clashes in several areas

Srinagar, Mar 19: The custodial killing of a private school teacher from South Kashmir’s Pulwama district Tuesday triggered a spontaneous shutdown at many places in Awantipora and old-city areas here.
28-year-old Rizwan Assad Pandith, a post-graduate in Chemistry, who worked as teacher at a local private school and also ran a tuition institute, was killed in police custody during the intervening night of March 18 and 19.
As soon as the news of his death went public on Tuesday, all the shops and business establishments were closed in Awantipora soon and the local youth engaged in clashes with government forces.
Police said that a probe is underway while as the separate police investigation has also been launched.
The students of Kashmir University also staged a protest against the custodial death of the youth and against summoning of Hurriyat (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
The students assembled in the premises of Kashmir University and raised slogans.
The students demanded investigation into the death of a youth. They also termed the summoning of Mirwaiz to National Investigation Agency (NIA) as ‘interference in religious affairs’, saying such acts must be stopped forthwith.

 

His death exposes helplessness of Kashmiris: Mirwaiz

Srinagar, Mar 19: Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Tuesday said that the custodial killing of a school teacher has once again exposed the “helplessness” of the people of Kashmir.
“Distraught at the brutal custodial killing of young Rizwan Ahmed of Awantipora. The brutal killing once again exposes the, helplessness, vulnerability and insecurity of the lives of Kashmiri’s as impunity to the authorities keeps rising. (sic),” Mirwaiz wrote on Twitter.
Earlier, both the former chief ministers of the state, National Conference’s Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti lashed out at the government of India over the custodial killing of a school teacher.
On Tuesday, a school teacher, identified as Rizwan Pandith, died in police custody at CARGO camp in Srinagar.
A resident of a resident of Awantipora in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district, Rizwan was arrested by the police few days back from his home.
A police official said that Rizwan died during the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday.
The Jammu Kashmir Police department has asked for a magisterial inquiry.


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Jaish almost wiped out, no one willing to head it: Army

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Apr 24: Army on Wednesday claimed the government forces have “severely targeted” the militants for the last few months and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant outfit was “almost wiped out with no one willing to take over it”.

Addressing a press conference here, GOC 15 Corps, KJS Dhillon, who was accompanied by Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbagh Singh, IGP Kashmir SP Pani, and IG CRPF Zulfikar Hassan, said that 69 militants have been killed and 12 of them arrested so far this year.

“Post Pulwama incident, 41 militants have been killed and out of them 25 belonged to Jaish-e-Mohammed, 13 of them were Pakistanis while 13 were A+ category,” Dhillon said.

 

The GOC 15 Corps claimed that they have targeted JeM leadership.

“The situation now is so that no one is coming forward to take over the leadership of JeM in the valley,” he said.

“Even after Pakistan’s best efforts, we will continue to suppress JeM. The operations against the militants will continue with full vigour and we will not let militancy rise up,” he said, while appealing the local militants to surrender.

“Recruitment of local militants has gone down. In addition, those who surrender, we will take care of their security,” he said.

Dhillon also advised civilians not to rush to the encounter sites.

Asked about the bi-weekly restrictions on civilian traffic on the Highway, he replied, “This is just a temporary measure. There are now relaxations on the civilian traffic.”

On the occasion, the DGP said 272 militants were killed in the state during 2018 and a “large number was apprehended.”

He too claimed that the local recruitment in militant outfits had declined.

“2018 was generally a successful year. There has been less ‘law and order’ problem. We brought many youth (who had joined militancy) back to their homes,” the DGP claimed.

“Elections have been conducted peacefully in the state because of a well-planned security grid. Voter turnover at 13 percent in Anantnag district is not less. People voted despite threats, no one can be forced to vote,” he said.

Asked there were reports that 11 youth had gone missing in south Kashmir during the last one month, the IGP Kashmir said, “Few had gone missing but returned. They had gone missing for other reasons, not to join militancy.”

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Held Pak militant paraded before media

‘Chota Dujana was active in Srinagar for over a year’

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Apr 24: Police on Wednesday presented a Pakistani militant Mohammad Waqar, alias Chota Dujana before the media, who, they claimed, was arrested from Pattan area in Baramulla on Monday.

During a press conference here, the militant was briefly allowed to respond to media.

“My name is Mohammad Waqar, resident of Miana Mohalla Punjab in Pakistan. I underwent a four-month militant training there,” he said.

 

 “I was told that Kashmiris are harassed, women are assaulted and Muslims are not allowed to offer prayers in Masjids. But I did not find any such thing here,” he replied when asked why had he picked up arms.

The militant was soon moved away.

SSP Baramulla, Abdul Wahid, said Waqar was affiliated with Lashkar-e-Toiba and had arrived in Kashmir in July 2017.

“He was operating in Srinagar for over a year now,” the officer said.

He added that the militant was travelling in a vehicle along with a Kashmiri when they were intercepted by the police near Mirgund, Pattan.

“They were chased and arrested near Chainabal Pattan,” he said.

The SSP said that as per their preliminary investigations, the militant was given shelter in old city as well as uptown areas of Srinagar.

“His plan was to resurrect militancy in Baramulla,” Wahid said.

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Malik sent to judicial custody till May 24

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New Delhi, Apr 24: A Delhi court Wednesday sent the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik, arrested in connection with the alleged funding case, to judicial custody till May 24.

The Tihar jail authorities have also moved an application seeking direction to produce Malik through video conferencing due to security concerns.

The family of Yasin Malik, said on Saturday, that the JKLF chief had fallen ill and was shifted to a Delhi hospital after he went on a hunger strike to protest against his “illegal” detention.

 

Earlier this month, Malik was brought to Delhi from Jammu and was later arrested by NIA in connection with an alleged case related to the funding of militant and separatist groups in Jammu and Kashmir. He was produced in a special court which remanded him in NIA’s custody till April 22.

Malik was shifted to Delhi’s Tihar Jail after NIA secured his production remand.  The JKLF chief was taken into preventive custody in February by the J&K police and lodged in Jammu’s Kot Balwal jail.

Malik organisation JKLF was banned last month by the Centre.

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