Missing man a relative of JK law minister
Lolab: A month has passed since Manzoor Ahmad, a labourer in his early twenties, disappeared from an army camp at Trehmokh Top in the remote Lolab area of Kupwara district in northern Kashmir. Manzoor and another local, Nasrullah Khan, were detained for ‘some questioning’ while they were on their way to Trehmokh Top from their village, Kakar Devar Patti.
Protests erupted on 31 August near the Top – a tri-junction mountain pasture connecting Bandipora, Baramulla and Kupwara – after locals accused the army of arresting the two men. Manzoor is also a close relative of J&K law minister and senior PDP leader Abdul Haq Khan.
The army camp is situated near the Top where people from surrounding villages live during summer in small wood and mud structures called dokhas. The villagers have to pass through the camp and sign in to enter it, producing their identity cards before moving towards the Top or returning to the villages.
Nasrullah was found near the dokhas by the evening of 31 August. He was ‘half-dead’ due to severe torture, villagers said. Locals also said the army assured them that “both will be released”.
Khan was taken to the local health centre from where doctors referred him to SMHS Hospital, Srinagar, in critical condition. Later he was shifted to SKIMS, Soura, for better treatment as he was suffering from severe kidney damage.
The locals continued their protests near the camp the next day, demanding Manzoor’s release. But this time the army refused to acknowledge that he was detained by them.
However his uncle, Jalaludin, who was also accompanying him, said that Manzoor was called inside the camp when he went to make entry. “He was told that Major sahib wants to meet you,” said Jalaludin.
This was corroborated by Nasrullah in hospital, battling for life. “When I reached to make entry, the gatekeeper told me to go inside as Major sahib wants to talk with you. I was asked to sit on a bench, and a doctor checked my blood pressure and asked why I was nervous. Within minutes, the Major came and asked politely, ‘Son, tell me the truth, we have information that on 27th of this month, militants had come to your house’.”
Nasrullah said that after he had refused the Major’s allegations, he was taken inside a barrack and beaten ruthlessly for hours.
“After severe torture, two soldiers lifted me on their shoulders and left me near the dokhas,” he said.
Nasrullah also said that he heard cries from the adjacent room during his interrogation. “I heard a soldier shouting: ‘Manzoor, Nasrullah told us that militants visited your house’. This was followed by cries of ‘Manzoor’.”
Following the protest about the disappearance, police registered an FIR in the matter. Later the army also initiated an inquiry into the case, and top army and police officials visited the area. Yet despite a month having passed, there is no clue about Manzoor’s disappearance.
“We have taken eyewitness accounts but we are totally clueless,” said Additional Superintendent of Police, Kupwara, Farooq Qaiser, the investigating officer in the case.
However the family has alleged that the investigation is not being taken up properly.
“One month has passed, and it is very clear that the army detained him, yet they are still saying they are not able to find him,” said Gulam Qadir, Manzoor’s father. “There has not been a single arrest; it shows how seriously they are taking the matter. It is a very simple case where the army is clearly responsible.”
Following the disappearance, the police searched the army camp but were not able to find anything.
Family members say they have no hope of Manzoor’s return.
“It appears that the army has killed him. Otherwise they would have returned him already; one month has passed,” said a cousin of Manzoor.
Locals have also made allegations accusing the army of exacting forced labour from them.
“We were asked to work in the camp for free and were often asked for wooden logs,” they allege. But since the disappearance of Manzoor, locals say, the army doesn’t dare to ask them for work.
Nasrullah was discharged from hospital last Sunday but is unable to move on his own. Doctors have told him to return weekly for regular treatment.
Nasrullah is the sole bread earner of his family, with an ailing mother, his wife and five children.
Meanwhile neither did the Srinagar-based defence spokesperson respond to Kashmir Reader’s repeated phone calls, nor did Manzoor’s relative, Abdul Haq Khan.