One Rizwan Too Many

Published: May 14, 2019 - 16:30 Updated: May 14, 2019 - 16:35

Javaid Naikoo, Srinagar

 Rizwan Asad Pandit, 30, a resident of Pulwama in south Kashmir, is the latest victim of an interrogation centre in Kashmir. On March 17, the Jammu and Kashmir police picked up Rizwan during a raid on his home and reportedly shifted him to Cargo, a counter-insurgency police station and interrogation centre in Srinagar.

The death of Rizwan of Pulwama in custody has opened up simmering wounds of the past in Kashmir

Rizwan, after three days in detention, died in the infamous interrogation centre. Among the people in Kashmir, his death is merely seen as yet another addition to a repeated and similar narrative which continues to surface from interrogation centres with the onset of militancy in Kashmir.
 
People recall that in the 1990s, the chances of returning alive from the alleged torture centres – Cargo, Badami-bagh Contonment, Hari-Niwas, Kawoosa House and Shariefabad camps, would remain indeterminate every time the police would pick up anybody in connection with militancy-related cases. Sources reported most horrible forms of torture and pain inflicted on those who were picked up. 

 Later, Ikhwan, the Special Operations Group (SOG) camp set up in Kulgam, Anantnag, Shopian, Bandipora and Baramullah districts acquired notoriety. All these camps were known as alleged ‘torture houses’ where Kashmiris, particularly youngsters, were subjected to interrogation to extract information related to militants. Said senior journalist Zaheer-ud-din, “Interrogation centres were never closed. Mufti Mohammed Sayeed once promised that interrogation centres would be closed down. However, he could only rename Ikhwan as SOG, while everything continued as it always.” He believes that custodial killings, as in the recent case of the young man in Pulwama, “is part of a systematic pattern with the sole purpose of scaring all those who support the ongoing resistance movement”.

 Those who somehow managed to come out alive from the alleged camps in the late 1990s would narrate harrowing tales of third-degree torture. According to sources, torture has been allegedly used to punish militants, or random civilians who have been arrested, carry out acts of reprisal against individuals with suspected ties to militants and coerce suspected militants or sympathisers to reveal information.

Human rights defenders claim that around 12,000 custodial deaths have been reported during the past 26 years in Kashmir and there has neither been a proper investigation, nor has the process of justice been initiated.

Rizwan, after three days in detention, died in the infamous interrogation centre. Among the people in Kashmir, his death is merely seen as yet another addition to a repeated and similar narrative which continues to surface from interrogation centres with the onset of militancy in Kashmir.

In the recent case of Rizwan, he was detained on March 17 in connection with an investigation of militancy and an inquiry is being conducted. The government is also conducting a magisterial inquiry.

The death of Rizwan surfaced days after the US Department of State released a report on the human rights situation in Kashmir. It reads that “no prosecution of accused soldiers” has been allowed for 28 years. “The government of India failed to prosecute any soldiers as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been imposed in the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” says the report.

A report compiled by the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society reveals that between January 2008 and December 2018, 107 inquiries were ordered by the state government. Out of the 107, the highest number was ordered in 2009. However, till date, no one has been reported to have been prosecuted. 

 

 

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