Did They Vanish in Thin Air?

The families of three missing persons of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district Wednesday accused the police of delaying the investigations while belying the reports that their loved ones may have crossed the Line of Control (LoC).
Did They Vanish in Thin Air?
Photo: Aman Farooq/GK

The families of three missing persons of north Kashmir's Kupwara district Wednesday accused the police of delaying the investigations while belying the reports that their loved ones may have crossed the Line of Control (LoC).

Ghulam Jeelani Khatana (42), Mir Hussain Khatana (45) of Gojar Patti (Satbonya) in Dardpora and Ali Muhammad Sheikh (40) of Dolipora, Trehgam, are missing since November 17 after they were taken away by a Territorial Army soldier Manzoor Ahmad Khoja. 

The families of the trio today travelled to Srinagar to narrate their ordeal to the media. However, they were denied permission to address media in a hotel here, forcing them to talk to the press outside the office of J&K Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) near Amira Kadal. 

The wives of the three missing men along with their children accused police of delaying the investigations and spreading wrong rumours that the trio has crossed over to Pakistan. "Wrong rumours are being spread by police and other security agencies about my missing husband that he has crossed LoC and has reached Pakistan," said Begum Jan wife of Ghulam Jeelani. Begum has 10 children, three of them without eyesight. She said police is deliberately trying to divert the attention from the case "only to shield the TA man and the image of Army."

"On November 17, my husband got a call from Manzoor Ahmed of TA. He left and told me he will be back within two hours. We called him in the evening but his phone was off. We went to the police station to lodge a missing report," she said. Begum alleged that police is not serious in tracing her husband. "We smell rat in police probe. We believe that my husband has been used in a bigger plan. We want government to build pressure on the police to help us trace all the three missing men," she said.

Hassena, wife of Ali Muhammad Sheikh, said they are in a dilemma since the day her husband went missing. "He told me that he will be back by 4:30 pm as he had got a call from soldier Manzoor Ahmed. I wonder how people of Kupwara and entire Kashmir are being misled by police and other agencies that the trio may have crossed the LoC," she said amid tears. "How can our husbands go to Pakistan when they have their families and kids?" Haseena has three small children.

Saleema, wife of Mir Hussain, who speaks Gojri, said she has six children and her husband would never think of crossing the LoC. "He is a labourer," she said. "We urge the government, the Chief Minister, to ensure thorough probe of the disappearances."

Speaking on the occasion, coordinator of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), Khuram Pervez, while questioning the silence of Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed in the issue, demanded DNA test of all the persons killed in encounters, especially in North Kashmir, after November 17. "The disappearance of three persons of Kupwara has added to the list of 8,000 people who went missing over the past two decades. The families of trio have been moving from pillar to post and yet there has been no result as seen in hundreds of other disappearance cases," he said. 

"Government or any security agency has never made public the names of informers whom they sent to Pakistan. Claiming that the trio may have crossed over to other side is just a ploy to divert people's attention from the case." 

According to Pervez, DIG North Kashmir, Gareeb Das, recently claimed that the trio had crossed over to Pakistan as informers of Army. He said on December 19, police arrested Latief Ahmad, driver of a cab who transported the trio. "The driver informed the police that he was hired by soldier Manzoor on November 17. He further stated that along with Manzoor, three other persons boarded his cab and he dropped them at a place called Pathri, on Keran-Kupwara road," Pervez said.

Pervez said that they would approach the High Court and also United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances over the issue.

JKCCS Head, Advocate Pervez Imroz, on the occasion said that there was no information where the bodies of militants killed in 106 encounters this year were buried. "Eighty percent of the militants killed this year were unidentified. The trio has no connections with the Army or any other security agency. Why would a TA man get in touch with them is something that leads to suspicion," Imroz said. "We fear the repeat of 2010 Machil fake encounter as we even don't know where the bodies of two militants including the one killed in Manigah, were buried."

On December 8, police showed photographs of five slain militants killed in encounters since November 15. However, the families of the disappeared found no resemblance between the photographs and their wards. GoC of Army's Srinagar-based 15 Corps, Lt General Satish Dua, recently said that Army has already ordered an in-house investigation into the case and if anybody is found involved, action would follow.

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