Srinagar: Twenty-four years after a student of the Government Medical College Srinagar was killed in cold blood by a Border Security Force (BSF) officer in his native Sopore town, his relatives have given up hope for justice. Nevertheless, they never tire of saying that had the student not traveled to his native town for a brief holiday, he would have, by now, been a successful doctor like his two siblings.
Riyaz Ahmad Kanjwal, 21, a student of MBBS third year at GMC Srinagar, was shot dead by a BSF officer from a point blank range on January 27, 1992. He had been standing on the debris of relative’s house that had been razed by the troopers a few days earlier. His crime, says his family, was that he looked into the eyes of the officer and dared to argue with him over the devastation caused in the town.
Riyaz’s elder cousin Mohammad Yaqoob Kanjwal, who retired as a senior police officer, told Kashmir Reader that Riyaz was killed in front of his eyes but he could do nothing to save him despite being a police officer. In fact, it was over the debris of Yaqoob’s house where his cousin was shot dead. The house had been burnt to ashes two days earlier but not a single soul could go to the locality due to strict curfew imposed in the area.
Yaqoob said that they had left their roadside house two days ago to escape the reprisal of Indian forces. “During the intervening night of January 24 and 25, 1992, our house was set on fire. Our neighbours told us that the troopers of 179 battalion of BSF burnt down our house. They even didn’t let the fire tenders to approach towards the burning house to dose flames,” Yaqoob said.
On the following sunny day, Yaqoob recounts, when the curfew was relaxed for a few hours, he along-with Riyaz and his friend Aijaz Ahmad, a life insurance company employee, went to see as to what happened to their house during the blaze. All other locals were rushing towards the area to look for their own houses.
“In the afternoon we reached at our place only to be shocked to see the house completely gutted. Riyaz and Aijaz began clicking photographs while I engaged myself in removing debris,” Yaqoob recalled. “All of a sudden, a 179-battalion BSF team began approaching us. They fired some shots in air to scare us away but we held the ground,” he said.
Commandant of the battalion was leading the team. He went into the gutted house where Riyaz and Aijaz were inside. They entered into an argument. The commandant insisted that the house was set ablaze by the militants but Riyaz told him that the BSF was involved in the arson. This infuriated the officer who ordered his men to shoot Riyaz.
“I couldn’t understand what was happening. The BSF men pulled triggers and in moment Riyaz was hit multiple times in his head and chest. He died instantly in front of our bare eyes. We were shell shocked,” Yaqoob recalled.
A police team was also there. They too watched the entire event but they did not do anything, he said.
“I took Riyaz’s body to Sopore police station and lodged an FIR 27/92 against trooper Ramesh who killed him. A BSF team also lodged a counter FIR claiming recovery of pistol from Riyaz’s possession. The claim was dismissed by the court after some years,” Yaqoob said.
Shortly after killing Riyaz, the BSF men took Aijaz into custody and subjected him to severe torture. He was pressurized to confess that Riyaz possessed a pistol. Aijaz died a year after his friend’s murder. He couldn’t live with the pain and suffering, his friends say.
Kanjwal was the third son of Abdul Ahad Kanjwal and the brightest among his siblings Dr Fayaz and Dr. Fida.
“We followed the case investigations for 12 years till 2004. Whenever, the case file was sent to ministry of home affairs, they picked up holes in the police investigation on the FIR. We don’t know what they did to that FIR later,” Yaqoob said.
“I was a police officer, an eyewitness of the brutal murder. I know how justice was denied to us and how my cousin’s killers went scoot free,” Yaqoob told Kashmir Reader.
“Hundreds of Riyazs have been killed in every nook and corner of Kashmir. Their relatives are also deprived of justice just like we have been deprived,” he said.