India

3 months and no exhumation: J&K’s father says ‘worry may not even be able to touch soil son is buried in’

Every day, he feels the burden is increasing on his shoulders, says Abdul Latif Magrey. It is now nine months since his son Amir was gunned down in an encounter with three others in Hyderpora, Srinagar. He is fighting a legal battle to retrieve the body which shows no signs of ending.

With the case now in the Supreme Court, Magrey says: “The longer it takes, the more I worry that I won’t even be able to touch the soil in which he is buried.”

Four people were killed in an encounter at Hyderpora in November 2021, and their bodies were quickly buried in unmarked graves, as per the new policy regarding alleged terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. After opposing police claims of family members of three of them (the fourth was said to be a Pakistani terrorist), the bodies of Altaf Bhat, a businessman, and Dr. Mudassir Gul, a dentist, were exhumed and returned to their families for burial.

However, the body of Amir, a resident of Jammu province, remained to lie in Handwara. Police say that, unlike Bhat and Gul, Amir is an established terrorist; Magrey, a government bravery award winner for fighting militants, opposes this. In an internal investigation, the police cleared themselves of any wrongdoing in the encounter.

On 27 May this year, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court accepted Magrey’s plea, directing the administration to exhume Amir’s body, and calling for denial of last rites to his family for violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.

Since then, the administration has repeatedly sought to block the order to dig the grave, citing the decomposition of the body, then arguing that granting it to a “terrorist” would create law and order problems.

On August 29, the apex court reserved its order on a petition seeking the exhumation of Aamir’s body.

Expressing his disappointment over the deadlock over Amir’s body, Magrey says: “Nothing is progressing. When the court ruled in our favor, we were satisfied.” But then came the stay, and since then there have been repeated hearings. “We just wanted to go to his grave and see for ourselves. The body would be fine so we thought, we’ll bring it home. If it wasn’t, we would be content to see his face.”

Magrey lives in Gool in Ramban with his wife and four children, two of whom are married. They have set aside a place in the village cemetery waiting for Amir’s body.

Magrey says that the family is fighting a battle on two fronts. “One, in the court, and the other against the terrorist tag given to him. He was a civilian and we should be able to bury him just like the others killed that day.”

He has not lost hope of justice yet. “Once we achieved justice, we hope we can get some relief again.”

The 58-year-old says he doesn’t want anything else from the government. He has “no quarrel” with them. “Just let me see his face, I don’t want anything else.”

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Nisha

Hi, my name is Nisha and I'm an educational journalist based in India. I've always been passionate about the power of education to transform lives, and that's what led me to pursue a career in journalism focused on this area. I completed my Bachelor's degree in English from Hindu College in Delhi in 2013 and then went on to earn my Master's in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication in 2017. During my studies, I also completed several short-term courses on Education in India, Sociology, and other related subjects to deepen my knowledge in this field. I'm particularly interested in improving access to quality education in rural areas, where students often face significant challenges. I've worked on a number of initiatives to address this issue, including advocating for better policies, resources, and practices that can make a difference. As an educational journalist, I'm passionate about using my platform to highlight important issues in the education space. I've covered a wide range of topics, including the impact of technology in the classroom, innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and the challenges facing students from marginalized communities. One of the things I love most about my work is the opportunity to constantly learn and grow. I'm an avid reader and believe that reading is key to expanding one's knowledge and perspective. I'm always seeking out new ideas and insights to help me better understand the world around me. In summary, as an educational journalist, I'm dedicated to using my skills and expertise to make a positive impact in the field of education. I'm committed to improving access to quality education for all students and to using my platform to raise awareness about important issues in this area.

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