Human Rights

‘I want my son back’

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Mother Khera showing a picture of her son Rashid detained from his home during a night raid. [FPK Photo/Umar Farooq.]

A month after Rashid’s disappearance, his cop sibling is still using all his means to brief media and civil society about the case. But so far, he laments, there’s no help in sight.

Jammu and Kashmir police reacted sharply over what was dubbed as the “first disappearance case” of Naya Kashmir.

The reaction came following a protest in Srinagar on 21 December 2022, prompting Yougal Manhas, SSP Kupwara, to issue a video statement: “We’ve assured the family that we’re working on it.”

But this assurance couldn’t prevent the family’s second protest within a month in Srinagar — forcing many to break their silence on the case.  

“Disappearing of a youth from custody of security forces is unusual & unheard of since long in Kashmir,” Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, Kashmir’s senior scribe, tweeted. “Tracing out Abdul Rashid Dar of Kunan Kupwara must be responsibility of @KupwaraCops & @dckupwara. Forces who picked up this youth are responsible for his safety.”

Landscape of Kunan village which is 2 kilometres away from north Kashmir’s Kupwara’s main town. [FPK Photo/Umar Farooq.]

Days after her second city campaign — where she bitterly wept and pleaded for her son’s safe homecoming, Khera Bano is consoling her bedridden husband. The 65-year-old is assuring her sick spouse that their son will be home soon. 

The cheerless couple dwells a two-storied, fenceless house, in Kunan village of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district. The village falls next to Poshpora, the place which hogged headlines over the nocturnal horror in February 1991.

Almost 32 years later, armed forces personnel from different army unit raided Rashid’s home. In that evening of 15 December 2022, the family had just assembled in kitchen for dinner. 

“We were shortly alerted by some footsteps,” recalls Mehfooza, Rashid’s sister. “As I stepped out, I saw armed forces in our compound. I rushed back to the kitchen and informed my elder brother who’s a policeman by profession, and another relative who works for the army.” 

House of Abdul Rashid Dar in Kunan Kupwara where he lives along with his family. [FPK Photo/Umar Farooq.]

Leaving their dinner unfinished, Rashid’s cop brother, Shabir, along with his army relative opened the door. The forces outside quickly sought Rashid’s whereabouts.

But the duo serving the allied forces in different capacities enquired if the raid party had informed the concerned police station about their dusky drive. The army, as per the cop sibling’s version, kept it curt: “Yes, police will be here soon.”

However, what baffled the brother was the raid itself, as Rashid was a family man—having zero police cases against him—driving a load-carrier truck to support his ailing father, mother and an unmarried sister. During winters, he would visit Punjab to sell shawls.

Rashid’s mother and bedridden father in his Kunan home. [FPK Photo/Umar Farooq.]

The army and their summon unsettled Khera, but Rashid allayed his mother’s fears saying that he has done no wrong. 

“Saying that,” Khera recalls, “Rashid went outside without washing his hand. It was his sister-in-law who cleaned his hand before they took him away. He was not even allowed to wear socks and trousers. He was last wearing his father’s plastic shoes.” 

Soon as his sibling went out of sight, Shabir informed police about the raid. He was told that Rashid might’ve been taken for questioning. 

“But questioning for what,” Khera asks.

Rashid’s mother during a protest in press enclave. [FPK Photo/Umar Farooq.]

The night of the raid, village Sarpanch Khursheed Ahmad saw searches simultaneously taking place at Rashid’s sister’s home. He confronted the armed forces, and later accompanied them to the driver’s home where the raid was already underway. 

“Everything present in the house was messed up,” Sarpanch recalls. “The town commander, who was also part of the raid, told me that they need Rashid for some investigation. They asked me to visit the army camp the next morning at 10. I along with some villagers and the family members went to the 41 RR camp, but we were not allowed to meet Rashid.” 

On the same day, at 4:30 pm, Sarpanch was informed by police that Rashid had fled from the army custody. “They detained Rashid in front of me,” Khursheed says. “We just want him back.”

Rashid’s mother pleading for her son’s release. [FPK Photo/Umar Farooq.]

A month after Rashid’s disappearance, his cop sibling is still using all his means to brief media and civil society about the case. But so far, he laments, there’s no help in sight.

“When everyone failed to represent our case,” Shabir says, “we were forced to visit Press Colony on 21 December 2022. We also staged protests at Trehgam and outside the SSP/DC Kupwara’s office, where we were assured full support.”

In fact, says Hilal, Rashid’s younger brother, the district authorities had set the 10-day deadline to trace his sibling. “But that deadline has already ended and no FIR has been filed in this case.”

Rashid’s family protesting near Ghanta Ghar. [FPK Photo/Umar Farooq.]

Rashid is reportedly among the three civilians gone missing since 2017 after taken by the armed forces. 

According to the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, almost 8,000 people in Jammu and Kashmir were subjected to enforced disappearances between 1989 and 2006. 

“I want my son back,” the mother pleads. “But if they don’t return him, I along with my whole family will sprinkle petrol on our bodies and burn ourselves in front of the army camp.”

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