Fearing detention, Shahid Manzoor, friend of Rizwan Asad Pandit, from Awantipora town of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, left his home on last Sunday to join militant ranks.
In a purported audio clip circulated on social media in Kashmir, Shahid claims he disappeared instantly after Pandits detention, fearing he also might be detained.
The 3 minute and 52 second long audio clip features Shahid with weapons in hands and detailed personal description in text and can be heard claiming that he choose gun over life as he didn’t want to meet the fate Rizwan met.
In the viral audio clip Shahid son of Manzoor Ahmad introduces himself as friend of Rizwan, a resident of Awantipora, the same town Rizwan belonged to.
“You are well aware about the Awantipora incident in which my friend Rizwan was tortured to death in police custody,” Shahid is heard saying in the audio.
Before this, he says they were called to Police station Awantipora and “tortured without any reason, ill treated and abused to an extent one feels ashamed of.”
“We were torched without reason to work as intelligence men or else you will be booked under Public Safety Act (PSA),” he claims.
Shahid say finally he along with Rizwan were “booked under PSA on base-less charges.”
The deceased Rizwan’s father, Assadullah Pandit has also said that his son was booked under PSA on “false charges” but the Court had quashed his PSA and he was released from custody on 9 January in 2019.
Shahid says when he heard about his friend’s detention, he instantly left his home, “fearing I might also get arrested and again face torture.”
“I was not afraid of physical torture but the ill treatment they (forces) do with a human being and their spewing of mother-sister abuses. Death is better than this life,” he says in the audio.
Shahid says the moment he saw on social media the killing of Rizwan, he joined the militant ranks.
The description on the viral audio reads that Shahid, a B.A second year student joined Hizbul Mujahideen militant outfit on 19 March, the day when Rizwan’s custodial killing broke the calm in south Kashmir
Rizwan, a 29-year-old Postgraduate in Chemistry, who worked as a principal at a local private school, was killed in Police custody in Kashmir during the intervening night of 18 and 19 March, triggering outrage.
Police said he was detained in connection with an investigation of militancy case while the family of the deceased teacher had said that Rizwan was “innocent and killed in a cold-blood”.
Government is also conducting magisterial inquiry into the Rizwan’s killing and has asked public, if having any knowledge about the incident, to dispose before an inquiry officer, additional district Magisterate Pulwama within seven days. A separate police inquiry is also being conducted into the incident.
“Because, I know today it happened with my friend, tomorrow I can happen with me,” says Shahid.
He says the people were protesting and Government claims those guilty (of Rizwan’s killing) would be punished.
But, there would be no inquiry nor would be anyone held guilty, Shahid says.
“The government makes hallow claims just to shut mouth of people. And this (killing) is done on the behest of government,” the militant recruit says.
Shahid questions whether there has been any investigation in Asiya and Nelofar murder case and that there would be investigation of the killing of Rizwan.
“Those people who think government would give justice to Rizwan and punish the guilty, they are betraying themselves,” he says.
On 29 May 2009, Asiya, then 17 and her sister-in-law Neelofar, then 22, had gone missing while returning home from their orchard in Nagbal area of South Kashmir’s Shopian. Next morning, they were found dead near the Rambiara Nala.ten years down the line, the family is still awaiting justice.
Shahahid says he had no belief in gun and thought of those youth, who picked up guns, were doing wrong by playing with their lives but believes “gun is solution to the oppression and injustice.”
“If we have to save our next generation from this suffering, then we have to become a Adil rehmullah,” he says.
Shahid also sought forgiveness from his parents, saying he got separated from them without their permission and that he had no other option.
“I wanted to live and do service for you. But, the death is better than the life where a person’s life and honour is insecure,” the Awantipora boy says.
He conceded his life would be short but “whatever it would be, it will be of honour.”
“And I will proud of my life that I stood opposite to the killers of Rizwan.”