Kashmiri School Principal 'Brutally Tortured, Burnt' Before Custodial Death

Preliminary post-mortem findings have suggested that “profuse bleeding resulting from multiple injuries” caused Rizwan Asad's death.

Srinagar: The family of the young school principal from Awantipora who died in police custody  claimed on Thursday that the victim had torture marks all over his body. Preliminary post-mortem findings have suggested that “profuse bleeding resulting from multiple injuries” could have caused the death that triggered massive protests in Kashmir.

On Thursday, Rizwan Asad’s family members staged a protest on the Srinagar-Jammu highway at Awantipora Chowk, demanding that the state authorities make public the postmortem report and book the accused who “murdered our son”.

‘My brother had been brutally tortured’

“My brother (Rizwan) had been brutally tortured. He was murdered in custody,” said Mubashir Hussain, Rizwan’s brother, who led the protest. Scores of villagers, including Sikhs, joined him.

According to Mubashir, 30-year-old Rizwan had “multiple horizontal cuts” on both thighs. “The thighs had turned black as if they had been burnt…there were cuts on the thighs. He had a swollen and bruised abdomen,” Mubashir told The Wire.

“Also, my brother’s right leg had swollen heavily and it had turned dark red. I could feel that the leg had been broken,” said Mubashir, adding that doctors at the Srinagar hospital where Rizwan’s autopsy was conducted told them that he had also suffered an injury to his spinal cord.

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Assadullah Pandit, Rizwan’s father, added that his son had two or three stitches on his head, on the left side. “His left eye was bruised and swollen, as if it had been hit with force,” said Pandit.

Rizwan was the principal of a local school where he also taught chemistry. He ran a tuition centre in Awantipora town and had taught at a local polytechnic college last year, where he was hired on a contractual basis. The young man was picked up by police from the Awantipora police station during a raid at his house on the night of March 17. Two days later, the family was informed about his death in custody.

“People don’t die in custody, they are killed. My son was killed in custody,” said Pandit, as he broke down during the protests.

Rizwan Asad. Credit: Facebook

While doctors at the Government Medical College (Srinagar) are expected to submit the post-mortem report by Saturday, a senior official said the preliminary findings have suggested that “profuse bleeding from vessels caused due to multiple injuries” could have resulted in the death.

“Extravasation of blood simulating antemortem bruising could have become cause of his death. In such a case there is also a possibility that severe internal bleeding blocks the vessels resulting in kidney failure which results in death,” said the official.

He corroborated the statement of Rizwan’s family members that the victim had “multiple and deep cuts on his bums” and injuries on other body parts including “heamatoma in right leg arm and eye”.

Probe shifted to Pulwama

On March 17, a day before Rizwan’s custodial death, his family had gone to Awantipora police station to seek their son’s release. There, they were told that their son had been shifted to the ‘Cargo’ detention centre in Srinagar, according to Mubashir.

While the family has accused the police of killing Rizwan during interrogation at Cargo, the government on Wednesday shifted the probe to Pulwama. The decision was taken a day after deputy commissioner Srinagar Shahid Iqbal told local media that he ordered a probe by the additional district magistrate Srinagar into the custodial death.

The fresh probe will now be conducted by the additional district magistrate Pulwama, who has been asked to submit the report within four weeks. While the government is tightlipped about shifting the probe from Srinagar to Pulwama, the development took place after police on Wednesday filed a case alleging that Rizwan had tried to escape from custody while he was being taken to a “location in Pulwama for searches”.

“An FIR (No 09/2019 under section 224 RPC (a person escapes or attempts to escape from custody) has been registered in the case,” reported local news agency GNS.

A senior police officer said the case was filed on the basis of a “submission” made by a police officer. “It is death in custody and the biggest onus is on the police now to prove how it happened. The magisterial inquiry will bring things to the fore,” the police officer said.

He, however, refused to comment on whether the police had produced Rizwan before a magistrate after his arrest. “This all is now part of magisterial inquiry,” said the police officer.

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In a statement on Tuesday, the police had said Rizwan was detained in connection with a “militancy case” and that he “died in police custody”. “In pursuance of a militancy case investigation, one suspect Rizwan Pandit of Awantipora was in police custody. The said person died in police custody,” the police statement tersely noted.

Rizwan’s family contested the “escape story”, accusing the police of trying to hush up the “murder”. “The police are trying to cook up a story that my brother tried to escape from their custody. It is an absolute lie. The condition of Rizwan’s body bears testimony to the fact that he wouldn’t have been able to even walk a few steps, let alone escape from a vehicle,” said Mubashir. “They are trying to bury this murder case as well, like scores of such cases in the past.”