Abdul Rashid Dar, a resident of Kunan village in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district who had been picked up by the soldiers of the Army’s 41 Rashtriya Rifles unit for questioning from his home on December 15, found dead on Wednesday.
A day later army picked him, the police had informed Dar’s family that he had escaped from the Army’s custody. Since then, his whereabouts were unknown.
In a statement on Wednesday, the police said that Dar’s body was recovered from a forest in Kupwara and handed over to his family.
Khera Begum, Dar’s mother was one of the twenty-three women who was brutally raped by Indian army personnel from 4 Rajputana Rifles in February 1991 in Kunan Poshpora villages in Kashmir.
The Dar family said that they were serving dinner when the army personnel barged into their house for searching the place and looking for Rashid. “The army took him (Rashid) outside and said they needed him for questioning,” said Shameema, Rashid’s sister.
The family was asked to visit the Trehgam army camp the next day, she added. Khera still hasn’t recovered from that night. Shameema said that she keeps crying and praying for the return of her son.
The darkness that descended upon the family kept them awake the whole night. “Bhaya (Dar’s elder brother, Hilal) called the local police station and they said they will look into the matter,” she said.
In the morning, the family was told that Rashid escaped from the army’s custody “when he was taken to a militant hideout” in the forests of the Zurhama area which is nearly five kilometers away from the Trehgam army camp.
The Dar family refuses to buy the army version. “It is a lie,” said Rashid’s brother Hilal Ahmad Dar . “We were told at the army camp that he was also beaten. He (Rashid) was too weak to escape from custody.”
Rashid’s father, who has been bedridden for years, has been asking for his son ever since he was taken by the army. “He asks us to check the backyard of our house,” said Hilal. “Khabar aaw ma, atet ma chu (he might have returned, might be there),” Rashid’s father tells his family.
Khursheed Ahmad Dar, Sarpanch Kunan village, told Maktoob that the army said they need Rashid for investigation.
However, this is not the first time that Kashmir witnessed such a disappearance. As per a Srinagar-based Non-Profit Organisation (NGO), the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), over 8,000 men disappeared in Valley between the late 1980s and the early 2000s.
The APDP provided assistance to families of disappeared persons in Kashmir for years before its work came under the crackdown by the J-K administration post-2019 episode. Its office was raided by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in October 2020. During the raid, the agency seized an extensive database that was archived by the APDP.
Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday wrote on Twitter that such incidents “have been normalised in the absence of any accountability” after the Centre revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution.
“Extremely disturbed to see pictures of the mutilated body of Abdul Rashid from Kunan Poshpora,” the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said. “Wasn’t allowed to visit the family under the pretext of security. What transpired after the Army picked him up for questioning months ago is anybody’s guess.”
She said that “a genuine probe” needs to be ordered in the case.