On March 19, 2019, Mohammad Asadullah Pandith, received the body of his 28-year-old son, Rizwan Asad Pandith, a school principal by profession, from police in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Just two days before he was allegedly killed in custody, Rizwan, a resident of South Kashmir's Pulwama district, was picked up by police from his residence and was shifted to Cargo, a notorious detention centre located in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir.
According to his family, Rizwan was tortured to death while in custody.
Without citing the reason for the death, police in an initial statement said Rizwan was picked up by them "in connection with a terror-related case and he died in custody".
Police lodged a First Information Report (FIR) against Rizwan, two days after his death, accusing him of attempting to escape from custody while travelling to South Kashmir.
After the news of Rizwan's death, protests erupted in some areas of Indian-administered Kashmir. Hundreds of people poured out onto the streets and pelted stones on security forces.
The situation forced the administration to constitute the special investigation team to inquire into the alleged custodial killing of Rizwan, giving hope to victim's family that a credible and transparent investigation would be conducted in the incident.
One month after Rizwan’s death, there had been no development in the case and the family’s hope for justice had diminished.
Asadullah, the father of Rizwan, said that the government had failed to deliver justice “where the criminal was their own security personnel.”
"By not giving justice to victim's families," heart-broken Asadullah continued, "the government is encouraging the security forces to continue such crimes."
Almost three months have passed, justice still eludes Rizwan's family. It seems that investigation is following the same pattern as the other such similar cases over the past three decades.
The family of Rizwan still awaits justice.
In May, this year, a comprehensive 550-page detailed report of such torture tales was released by two Kashmir-based organisations – Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS).
The report titled Torture: Indian State's Instrument of Control in Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir has document 432 case studies of torture perpetrated by the Indian state in Indian-administrated Kashmir since 1990. The reports figured out the trends and patterns, targets, perpetrators, contexts and impact of torture.
"While Joint Interrogation Centres (JICs) were constructed primarily to execute torture in and around Kashmir valley," the report says, "the gruesome practice wasn't limited to these centres. Police stations, military camps, SOG camps and even abandoned buildings were also used for this purpose. During Cordon and Search Operations (CASOs), the government buildings in a particular area, like schools, Primary Health Centres, Rural Development Offices etc., and sometimes even the houses of local people, would be turned into makeshift torture centres."
Calling the report as a landmark in his prologue to the report, Juan Mendez, a former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture said the report will draw international attention to India's human rights violations in Indian-administered Kashmir.
On July 8, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a second report, accusing Indian of human rights violations in Kashmir.
Rejecting the report, India said it is merely a continuation of the earlier "false and motivated" narrative.
In June, last year, the Office of OHCHR released its first-ever report on human rights violation in both sides of Kashmir.
The report stated there is an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and abuses and deliver justice for all people in Kashmir, who for seven decades have suffered a conflict that has claimed or ruined numerous lives.
Pakistan welcomed the report, while the Indian government rejected it called it "fallacious and motivated."
In the absence of any law criminalising torture and the absolute impunity that the Indian armed forces enjoy, the report said, torture continues unabated in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Darul Ihsan Media Desk