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2 Days After Custodial Death Of Kashmiri Principal, His Friend Joins Militancy

In an audio message, Shahid Manzoor, who claims to be Rizwan's friend, says jihad is the only option left to free future generations from 'oppression and slavery' of Indian armed forces.

Mufti Islah | CNN-News18

Updated:March 22, 2019, 12:35 PM IST

Srinagar: Two days after the custodial killing of Rizwan Asad Pandit, a 29-year-old private school teacher in Awantipora, an audio message surfaced on the social media on Thursday wherein his friend is seen pledging jihad to end ''oppression'' of the Indian security forces.

"It is better to have a short and dignified life than a long one of slavery. I know after picking up a gun, my life would be very short but jihad is the only option left if you want to free your future generations from oppression and slavery of India,'' Shahid Manzoor, who claims to be a friend of Rizwan, can be heard saying in the audio which has since gone viral.

As per Rizwan’s family, he was killed in police custody after being picked up during a raid on Sunday. His body was handed over to this family on Tuesday evening amid allegations that he was tortured to death.

His brother Mubashir Ahmad even shared a video of torture and burn marks on his body. The video was allegedly filmed during the ritual bath and last rites.

"I wanted to live, study and be with my parents but I have no choice but to pick up gun. I believed in peace and would think those boys who took gun were needlessly wasting their lives but I was wrong. There is no option left but to fight,'' Manzoor, who is apparently a college student, says in his message.

"I am sorry that I have to get separated from you and am leaving without asking for permission. But I have to, otherwise I won't be able to keep my head high when I meet Rizwan in the hereafter,'' he pleads to his parents in a sullen voice.

Manzoor talks about the alleged harassment that he and Rizwan had suffered at the hands of the police earlier. ''Last time when we were picked up by police we were threatened to work as informers or face the PSA (Public Safety Act). The interrogators abused our sisters and mothers. It hurt us more than the physical torture,'' he alleges.

Asked for a comment on the purported claim of the youth to have joined militancy, a top police officer said they will have to ''ascertain the veracity of the audio and that will take a day at least.''

''We know an audio is in circulation since the last few hours, but we will be able to comment on it after due investigation,'' he said.

A resident of New Colony in Awantipora area of South Kashmir’s Pulwama district, Manzoor says he joined militancy after he came to know about the custodial killing of his friend. He added that he had been picked up along with Rizwan by police last year and a PSA was slapped on them.

''We were tortured mentally and physically inside the jail,'' he says. He adds, ''As soon as I heard that my friend had been killed inside the custody, I decided to join militancy.''

Manzoor said the inquiries ordered by the government did not yield anything and those ''who think guilty in Rizwan's killing would be punished are mistaken''.

''The probes and investigations are a mere eyewash. Nothing has come out of inquiries on Kunan Poshpora and Shopian twin rape and in murder incidents,'' he says.

Though police recently claimed local recruitment in militancy has fallen in the last few months, Manzoor's admission to pick up gun has come as a setback.

The army had recently appealed to the mothers of Valley to persuade their sons to shun militancy and return to mainstream or get ready to die if they don't abjure violence.

Figures available with forces suggest that more than 150 local youth picked up arms last year and close to 400 in three straight years.

South Kashmir districts have witnessed a surge in youth joining militant ranks after the encounter killing of Burhan Wani in July 2016.

Despite the Indian Army having launched ‘Operation All Out’ and intensifying the anti-militancy operations, the local militancy has not ebbed. Last year, the security forces were able to eliminate 250 militants but a good number signed up for the same.

This year, too, militancy incidents have seen a huge surge. The biggest attack took place last month when 40 CRPF men were killed in a suicide bombing in Pulwama. The attack by a local human bomb named Adil Ahmad Dar almost triggered a war between India and Pakistan. Although the war clouds have faded away, the Indo-Pak boundary continues to be tense with daily skirmishes. A soldier was killed on Thursday in Sunderbani area of Rajouri district.

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| Edited by: Divya Kapoor
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