The sequence​ of events in Awantipora custodial death points to holes in police theory

Magisterial inquiry not handled by administration where the death occurred.

The sequence of events following the custodial death of a 28-year-old teacher, Rizwan Asad Pandit, from south Kashmir’s Awantipora area points to the gaping holes in the police theory.

Three days after the death of Pandit on March 19 in police custody at Srinagar’s special counter-insurgency cell, Cargo, an FIR was lodged against the deceased for “an attempt to escape from a police vehicle” on the way to a location in south Kashmir.

Of the three main police stations of the Awantipora police district, comprising Awantipora, Pampore and Tral police stations, the “bid to escape case” has been lodged in the Khrew police station, not hooked up to the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), which can be accessed online by the citizens. Pandit belonged to Awantipora area.

J&K’s 78 police stations, out of around 100, were connected to the CCTNS this year.

Meanwhile, the magisterial inquiry was handled by the Pulwama district after the police case was lodged in Khrew and not by the Srinagar district administration where the death occurred.

The police also claimed that Pandit was rounded up for “a militancy-related case” that occurred at Pantha Chowk in Awantipora apparently last year. However, the name of “Pandit does not figure in the police’s ‘roznamcha’ (daybook), according to the police records accessed by The Hindu.

The preliminary autopsy report compiled by the Government Medical College, Srinagar, suggested that the death took place “at least 12 hours” prior to the autopsy on Tuesday afternoon. It inferred that Pandit died on Monday evening, a day after he was picked up on February 17, and the family was intimated on Tuesday morning about the death.

The GMC report confirmed “excessive bleeding caused by deep wounds on his body” and “excessive bleeding can lead to fatal shock.”

“External wounds have been suspected to be caused by some sharp object,” the GMC report suggested. It ruled out any ‘internal injury’ but pointed out “some injuries were found to be older than others.”

A number of trader bodies on Saturday urged Governor Satya Paul Malik “to set up an independent special commission of inquiry in the custodial death.” “Till the time the commission submits its report, it would serve the ends of justice if all persons associated with it are put behind bars”, they said in a joint statement.

The press conference was jointly held by Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries, High Court Bar Association, Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation, Kashmir Economic Alliance, Kashmir Centre for Social and Developmental Studies, Private School Association, Kashmir Bakers Association, Hoteliers Club, All Traders and Transporters Coordination Committee etc.