Young Woman Seeks Closure with Funeral for ‘Missing’ Father
At a recent protest by the Association of Parents for Disappeared Persons in Srinagar
SRINAGAR: In a significant event, a young woman has decided to hold funeral in-absentia in Srinagar city Tuesday, bringing an end to 14 years of endless wait for her father and a victim of enforced disappearance.
Manzoor Ahmad, a chemist in Rawalpora on the outskirts of Srinagar, was abducted on the intervening night of January 18-19 in 2002, allegedly by the Army's 35 Rashtriya Rifles, and subjected to enforced disappearance.
After consulting Islamic scholars and relatives, his daughter, Bilkess Manzoor, has called the funeral in-absentia at a school near their residence on Tuesday afternoon to put an end to "years of suffering" by the family who have even sold their property to trace the victim.
"The funeral will not mean the end of our fight for justice," Bilkees, mother to a toddler daughter, told The Citizen. "For a long time, we thought papa will return, but that hope has died now. We have suffered immensely, but I am feeling satisfied in doing something for my father that will put his soul to rest."
Last year, the Special Investigation Team of J&K Police closed the case filed under section 364 (abduction) against Army’s 35 Rashtriya Rifles. During investigations, the name of Major Kishore Malhotra (now brigadier) surfaced as an accused who was also identified by Bilkees during a test identification parade in 2013.
“The custodial disappearance has occurred nearly about 14 years ago which clearly indicates that the disappeared person could have died in custody of 35 RR and accordingly section 302 (murder) of RPC is invoked,” reads the status report filed by the SIT in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
According to human rights activists, more than 10,000 people have become victims of enforced disappearance in Jammu and Kashmir over the last two decades of internal strife.
Over 3000 such persons have left behind their wives, known as half-widows, who gather in Srinagar on the 10th of every month to commemorate their missing ones and to press authorities to furnish details about their loved ones.
The Tuesday's event in Srinagar, which comes exactly fourteen years after Manzoor went missing, will be the first of its kind admission by a family about the improbability of the victims' survival.
"I am fighting this case lonely. Combined protests are good but we have to fight this battle legally. I will not stop my fight. If I don't get justice, my daughter will fight for it till Kishore Malhotra (an Army officer accused in the case) is hanged," Bilkees, who was class10th student when her father went missing, said.
Bilkees said she was unable to pay her school fee after her father was abducted and the family had to sell their property to keep up the fight, "Being a daughter, I can't believe that my father is dead, but a reality is staring at me and I can't ignore it. We have sold most of our properties to find father and I am not going to give up," she said, tears welling up in her eyes.