Dusk had slipped in. Residents of Awantipora area of Pulwama were about to start their day; mobile phones buzzed with the rumors of the custodial killing of Rizwan Asad Pandit, who was picked by the government forces only a day ago from his home. He had turned 29 only a day ago.
On 17 March, sitting together after dinner, the family was excited, and up with plans, for a newly constructed house. Soon, everyone started making the bed; the fall of the night was excused by heavy knocks on the door. The knocks, rhythm of beats, were not normal. Mubashir Asad, elder to Mr. Pandit, went to downstairs to check the knocks.
“It was government forces, wearing fatigue, asking me about Rizwan,” said Mr. Mubashir.
Finding government forces in the vicinity made family members fearful; a shiver ran down in their spine. Soon, as it happened, they locked all family members in a room and asked Mr. Mubashir to accompany them for search.
“They took me to our newly constructed house and searched. On finding nothing, they asked Rizwan to come along,” Mr. Mubashir added. Seeing government forces, accompanied by the local police station officers, in the courtyard made Mr. Pandit’s mother, Haneefa Bano, impatient.
Looking at him being taken away, Ms. Bano cried to release him. “Among the police officers, one policeman said, ‘Mother! Go inside, we will release him soon.’”
“I can see your glimpse before my eyes. Oh! my son, where are you?”
As family members resisted the act of taking him by government forces, one of the police officer placed the gun on Mr. Mubashir chest, “and warned me from moving forward.” As per the family’s allegation, they also took all the mobile phones from the house, including Mr. Mubashir’s laptop.
Sitting on the balcony of her house amid female mourners, Ms. Bano recalls the last words of forces while leaving from the house: “We will kill you all if you made any shouts.”
The night went restless. They awaited the sun and went to the local police station located a few meters away from Mr. Pandit’s house. “They (police) told us that he has been taken to Srinagar for questioning by cargo camp,” said Mr. Mubashir. “But they martyred him inside the custody.”
The new-age media served the purpose — the news of his death reached his home via the internet. “This is a heinous crime. When we contacted them for confirming this, they told us that he has been shifted to the hospital due to some injuries,” said Mr. Mubashir.
According to the family members, Mr. Pandit was booked under Public Safety Act (PSA) on 16 August 2018. “The case was quashed by the court, but they kept him under custody for almost five months. Now, he was living a normal life and moving on with his work,” adds Mr, Mudashir.
A favorite teacher whose death is unbelievable for his students
Mr. Pandit was popular in his locality for his teaching practice, seemed to be a kind heart, was a Master in Chemistry, had done B.Ed, and was planning to go for Ph.D. from the Islamic University of Science and Technology.
“I was in my coaching center when I came to know about it. I still can’t believe that Rizwan sir is no more,” sighed Irshad Javaid, a 12-grade student, standing on the wall of Mr. Pandit’s house.
Many students had come to catch the last glimpse of their teacher. They remember the summers they spent together — learning and laughing.
“We have no words to express how we feel over his death,” said a group of students, wearing uniforms of their school, Sabir Abdullah Public School (SAPS) where Mr. Pandit held the position of principal, and that too, youngest in the area.
Family demands justice; and war to end
“We will not go there to take his dead body. They picked him from our house and we want them to return him home,” said Mr. Mubashir.
Adding to it, he exclaimed that those who are involved in his killing should be brought before the court. “They should be announced to death the same way they killed my brother. This is my only demand.”
But, in the meantime, he also states that it is not possible in a state like Kashmir; “There are endless similar cases pending in the court, awaiting justice; while it is just a myth,” he said.
“This is the reason young boys are choosing an unlawful path,” said Insha Jan, a third-year student, sitting next to Mr. Pandit’s mother, wiping her tears. “Your sister will die after you, Oh! My brother, I will give my life for the scars you have on your body.”