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.”