Custody death of man sparks Kashmir protests
March 20 2019 01:25 AM
Villagers shout anti-Indian slogans following the death of school teacher Rizwan Asad Pandit allegedly in police custody in Awantipora of Pulwama district, south of Srinagar yesterday.

Reuters, IANS /Srinagar

Protests flared in parts of Jammu and Kashmir yesterday after police said a man being questioned in connection with a security investigation had died in custody, the latest disturbances in one of the world’s most militarised regions.
The dead man, Rizwan Asad Pandit, a chemistry graduate who taught at a private school, according to his family, had been arrested as part of a “terror case investigation”, a police spokesman said.
Inquiries were being carried out into the cause of his death, the spokesman said.
Pandit’s brother, Zulkarnain Asad Pandit, was sceptical that any investigation would reveal the truth.
“We want an investigation of it but we know nothing is going to happen,” the brother said.
“We’ve all seen investigations for the last 20 years.”
Protesters threw stones at police in several parts of the state following news of Pandit’s death, with shops shutting in parts of the main city of Srinagar.
Police responded with tear gas.
As a precaution, all exams scheduled for yesterday in the Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) at Awantipora were postponed.
Mobile Internet services were suspended in Awantipora and adjoining areas.
Authorities rushed reinforcements of security forces to Awantipora to maintain law and order.
The dead man came from a family with links to the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), his brother said, a political group that wants independence for Kashmir.
The Indian government recently banned the group which it accuses of having links to militant organisations.
The security forces have arrested hundreds of JeI members since the February 14 bomb attack. The group denies it is linked to militants.
“He was totally innocent and he had no affiliation with any militant outfit,” Pandit’s brother said.
Several prominent political figures in Kashmir condemned he death of the man.
“Punishment must be handed out to the killers of this young man,” former state chief minister Omar Abdullah said on Twitter.
The National Conference leader added that with “midnight raids, crackdowns, rampant arrests, custodial murders, denial of democratic right to choose a government Kashmir continues to suffer the fallout of the disastrous PDP-BJP alliance and from the Modi government’s muscular approach to J&K”.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) denied arresting or ever calling Pandit for questioning.
In a statement, the agency said: “The NIA emphatically denies reports linking it with Rizwan. He was neither called for questioning nor was he examined at any other location in connection with cases being investigated by NIA”.
Some media reports said Pandit had been detained by NIA for questioning.
Meanwhile, heavy exchange of firing took place between Indian and Pakistani troopers on the Line of Control (LoC), a defence official said.
“Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked ceasefire violation in Rajouri’s Sunderbani sector and Jammu’s Akhnoor sector on Monday night,” Defence Ministry spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Devender Anand said.
Tension between India and Pakistan escalated dramatically after a suicide car bomb killed at least 40 paramilitary police on February 14.
Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohamed militant group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Pakistan denied any involvement.
In response to the attack, Indian jet fighters attacked what it said was a militant camp in Pakistan.
Pakistan denied any militant camp was in the area and said the Indian bombs exploded on an unoccupied hillside.
The next day, Indian and Pakistani warplanes engaged in a dogfight over Kashmir.
Pakistan downed an Indian plane and captured its pilot after he ejected over Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

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