Srinagar: For the last eight months, Manzoor Ahmad Wagay has been digging every single day and coming up with nothing. The day he does find what he’s looking for, it will be the body of his young son.
Wagay’s son Shakir Manzoor, a soldier of the Territorial Army, was kidnapped by terrorists on August 2. Since then, the 56-year-old father has been going every day with shovels and spades to various sites near the spot his bloodstained clothes were found.
He weeps when he talks about the last time he saw Shakir, who would have turned 25 this year. It was Eid and he had come home for lunch with the family.
“Barely an hour after he left home, Shakir called on the phone and told us he was going with some friends and that they should not disclose this to the Army if they ask for him. He had actually already been kidnapped and his captors had allowed him to call one last time,” says Wagay.
The next day, the vehicle Shakir was using was found completely burnt in Kulgam. “A week later we found his blood-soaked clothes at Ladhura, just 3 km from our home.”
On Wednesday, he went back to the spot where the clothes were found because of something his niece said.
“This morning my niece Ufaira told me she saw Shakir bhai in her dream. Shakir told her his body has been buried at the place where his clothes were found in a ditch. I told my neighbours we should go there and search for the body. Around 30 people turned up and we started digging. After hours of digging earth, we returned empty handed,” Wagay says.
“All these months, I have been unable to sleep. How can I sleep until I get the body of Shakir and give him a decent burial? It’s not just me…the entire village stood by me in this difficult time. They all loved him, that is why villagers with shovels and spades come with me every day to dig.”
Wagay claims he knows who kidnapped and killed his son. There were four terrorists, he says, and all have been killed since in encounters. “One of them was an Ikhwani (counter insurgent). He had run away with four AK rifles from a police camp at Bijbehara and formed his own militant group. We tried to contact all militant organisations and asked them to give us any clue where my son is buried. They claimed to have no links with individuals involved in the kidnapping.”
Days after the young soldier disappeared, an audio clip on social media had terrorists claiming responsibility. They also talked about denying the soldier’s family his body in retaliation for a government policy of not handing over bodies of local militants to their families.
Since March 2020, bodies of militants killed in encounters have not been released to their families. The bodies of common people killed in security forces action were also not given to their families on grounds of Covid. They were buried far from their homes.
Wagay, in his boundless grief, has not stopped hoping he will find his son.
In police records, Shakir is missing and has not been declared dead.
“We don’t have any concrete information where he was buried after his killing. At the local level police are trying their best. Whenever they get any information it will be shared with the family” said Dilbag Singh, Director General of police, Jammu and Kashmir.
Wagay is angry that his son has not been declared a martyr. “He was a soldier and laid down his life for India. First they failed to save his life and then failed to trace his body. My appeal to the government is to declare him a martyr. My son was kidnapped and killed during torture. He endured the worst torture but refused to speak against the country.”
In Kashmir, around 8,000 people have gone missing in the last three decades and their families allege most after them were picked up by security forces. This is the first disappearance of a soldier. (NDTV)