Child’s death brings hostile nations together, body handed over to Pak Army at Gurez

Child’s death brings hostile nations together, body handed over to Pak Army at Gurez

Three earlier attempts had proved futile as Pak Army was not coming to border post for fear of landmines

BANDIPORA: After two days of uncertainty during which three attempts to hand over a child’s body to the Pakistan Army proved futile, the body of 7-year-old Abid Sheikh that had floated down the Kishanganga river from Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-administered Kashmir to Gurez was handed over to his family with the help of military, police and civil administration of both the countries on Thursday afternoon.

The handover took place at Dudgai post, Chorwan, in Gurez valley in frontier Bandipora district. On Tuesday, locals at Achoora village close to the Line of Control (LoC) had spotted a child’s dead body in the Kishanganga river, also known as Neelam, following which the police rushed to the spot and retrieved the body. A postmortem conducted at Sub District Hospital Gurez ascertained the cause of death as drowning.

The body had no clothes on it and the boy had apparently drowned while taking a bath in the river. The police initially failed to ascertain the child’s identity as no missing report was registered in any of the local police stations. Then it began to be presumed that the had floated from across the border. The apprehensions proved right when social media posts from Gilgit- Baltistan began claiming that the child was a resident of Mini Marag village in Astore valley of Gilgit- Baltistan, 20 kilometers from Gurez.

The posts said the child had gone missing while returning home from school on Monday morning. In a video appeal on social media, the child’s father and other family members pleaded to both India and Pakistan for the return of the child’s mortal remains. As people from both sides of the border pressed for the return of the child’s body, which had been lying in a Gurez hospital, officials here after conducting legal formalities and ascertaining the identity from across the border, began the process of the handover.

The civil and military administration of both sides had got in touch but high drama was witnessed on Tuesday due to possible “miscommunication” when three attempts to hand over the body to the Pakistan Army proved futile. On Tuesday morning, Deputy Commissioner Bandipora Shahbaz Mirza said, “Efforts are on and the body will be handed over today”, but by late evening the body was still on the Indian side. Senior Superintendent of Police Rahul Malik told Kashmir Reader on Tuesday evening that they were attempting to hand over the body.

Later, the Deputy Commissioner told media that due to possible minefields the Pakistani Army had not come forward to receive the body near Chorwan, and that they had agreed to the handover at another place in Teetwal. The developments led to rising anger among people as the body could have been decaying in the meanwhile. When news reached the local population in Gilgit, they again pressed for the handover near Chorwan due to it being located at a shorter distance from the child’s home.

On Thursday, the Chief Minister of Gilgit Baltistan intervened and conveyed to people that the body will be received on Thursday only. This information was posted on the “Qamri Minimarg Valley Astore” Facebook page which had been reporting on the developments. On Thursday at 1:30pm, the Bandipora district administration, police, and army finally handed over the body to the Pakistan army at Dudgai post in Chorwan, officials here informed.

The efforts from both the armies, police and civil administration were appreciated by people from both sides. “From 1947 it’s for the first time in presence of both the armies that the bloodline has been crossed freely and legally. Very grateful and a big thank you to one and all,” said the post on the Qamri Minimarg page, along with a picture of people carrying Abid’s coffin with a white flag. Abid’s body, according to social media posts from Gilgit-Baltistan, was buried in his home village after the performance of last rites.