School principal's family says he was tortured to death

Contesting the police claim that their son attempted to escape from custody, the family of Rizwan Pandit, a school principal, Thursday said he was brutally tortured to death in custody.

“How would have my son attempted to escape from the police custody when from the beginning he was tortured and locked in their custody? There were clear wounds and torture marks on his body. The condition of his body clearly indicated that he was ruthlessly tortured,” said Assadullah Pandit, father of slain Rizwan Asad Pandit of Awantipora in South Kashmir.

“He had a swollen and bruised abdomen. His right leg had swollen and broken,” he said.

Pandit said the investigating agency can exhume the body of Rizwan and find his body full of wounds and cuts. “The police report about his escape is a cooked up story. They are trying to bury this murder case like scores of similar cases in the past,” said Pandit while breaking down.

Pandit’s elder son Mubashir Asad Pandit said, “I have the pictures of his body in my phone. The pictures clearly show that my brother Rizwan had undergone third degree torture. There were burn and cut marks all over his body because iron and roller was used on him.”

The doctors at the Srinagar hospital where Rizwan’s autopsy was conducted told the family that he had also suffered injury to his spinal cord.

The family, Mubashir said, will bear to exhume his body and see how ruthlessly he was tortured. “We want impartial inquiry into the case so that the culprits are booked and hanged,” Mubashir said.

Rizwan, 30, was picked up by police during a raid at his house on the night of March 17. Two days later on Tuesday, the family was informed about his death in custody.

On Tuesday, a police spokesman said that in pursuance of “terror case” investigation, a person namely Rizwan died in police custody. “In this matter, while following the procedure laid down in section 176 of CrPC a magisterial inquiry is underway.”

On Wednesday a magisterial inquiry at Srinagar was closed and a fresh inquiry was initiated in Pulwama district. The fresh probe will now be conducted by the additional district magistrate Pulwama, who has been asked to submit the report within four weeks.

On Thursday, Rizwan’s family members, relatives, neighbours mostly from Sikh community staged a protest in Awantipora.

The protesters sought time-bound investigation in the case.

The management at Sabir Abdullah Public School Awantipora where Rizwan was working as principal also organized a condolence meet.

“His death is a big loss for our school, for staff members and students,” said one of Rizwan’s colleagues.

Complete shutdown was observed in Awantipora on the third straight day to mourn his death.