19 Months Later, Missing Gurez Duo Paraded By Gilgit Police

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by Khalid Bashir Gura

SRINAGAR: A video has surfaced on YouTube, in which two missing youth of Bandipora district are seen blindfolded in police custody in Police Lines Gilgit on the other side of the Line of Control. They had been missing since November 2018.

On way to Gurez: A photograph, a poem

The Police officer who identifies himself as SSP Gilgit Mirza Hassan, seemingly is addressing the media – not seen in the video, alleging the duo were forced into spying and pushed into Gilgit across the Line of Control (LoC) after being disguised as shepherds. “Soon after they crossed the border the duo was arrested by Pakistan security forces,” the officer says in the video without offering many details. He offered no details where and when the two men were caught.

Interestingly, the spy allegations came at a time when the region is witnessing border tensions between China and India in remote Eastern Ladakh.

Gurez, one of the least militancy impacted region, shares borders with Gilgit region of the erstwhile state, now under Pakistani control. The area is often in news for cross border shelling and infiltration.

The video is uploaded on various social media pages on Gilgit. The caption suggests that the press conference was “brief” and “hurriedly arranged” on Friday.

Seemingly, the video is new, given the cops seen moving around in the video are wearing masks. In fact, both the youth are wearing masks too.

Two Gurez youth Feroz Ahmad Wani and Noor Mohammad Wani paraded before media by Pakistani media in Gilgit on June 12, 2020. Photo: Pakistani media

One of the blindfolded Kashmiri, identifies himself as Feroz Ahmad Lone, 29, son of Abdul Rahim Lone, resident of Achoora village in Gurez, Bandipora. Speaking in Urdu with longer pauses, he says that he had lost his mother in 2004. Seemingly the style of speaking was as if rote learned or memorized. They referred Kashmir as “Maqbooza“, which is the official line on the other side of the LoC.

Offering details about his person, Feroz said he has studied and used to work as a labourer at Brigade camp at Gurez for financial support. He claims he passed his BA in 2011 and worked at his computer operator brother’s photostat shop for two years. In 2014, he said he worked with the Rural Development Department also.

“In 2014, I and Noor Mohammad met a person Rouf, in Markoot Gurez. Rouf was friends with some Indian officers. After a few meetings, Rouf introduced us to these officers who compelled us to cross the border and work for them as spies in lieu of money,” Lone goes saying in the video.

He said that it was only after the duo was assured by the officers that their families will be looked after financially they agreed to work. “They gave us one lakh rupees and told us that the remaining ten lakhs will be given after the mission is completed.”

The duo, he says was asked to cross the LoC disguised as shepherds looking for stray cattle and if Pakistan troops arrest them, they should pose as “Mujahideen”. Lone alleged that they were advised that they should assure Pakistani troops about their willingness to work for them, (so that they) “get trained and simultaneously spy on the activities of Pakistan forces and convey them to Rouf through WhatsApp.”

Another youth identifies himself as Noor Mohammad Wani, 24, son of late Muhammad Mushtaq Wani, says he also belongs to the same Achoora village in Gurez. He says his parents had died when he was a toddler and was brought up by his uncle. “I along with my studies also used to work,” said Wani in the video, seconding the details revealed by Lone.

The Kashmir Life couldn’t confirm whether the orphaned youth Noor Mohammad Wani’s uncle had filed any complaint with the police.

Zahoor Ahmad Lone, elder brother of Feroz, however, confirmed to The Kashmir Life that the persons in the viral video are his brother Feroz and Noor Mohammad. “Our search has begun now. We will be going to the police station tomorrow. Who knows what will happen, all we want is Feroz to be retrieved?”

Zahoor’s wife, Neha Kumari, the sister in law of Feroz said that Feroz had not communicated or shared any such incident with the family. He often used to remain quiet and keep things to himself. “Initially we thought he must be at a friend’s place as used to be. He had a habit of leaving without informing. But when weeks past we were worried and started looking for him.”

“Approached for comment, Kashmir Inspector General Vijay Kumar said they were looking into the matter. Army sources in Srinagar said they are looking into the matter as well,” news website The Print reported. “However, a Kashmiri man from Gurez told The Print that one of the two men caught in PoK was his brother, who had gone missing in 2018 and was subsequently declared dead.” The website quoted Lone saying that his brother’s “phone records had shown” that he was in touch “with a Territorial Army trooper called Rouf Ahmed before he went missing”.

Lone’s brother has given many details to the website. He had made a police complaint. “All of those people were picked up. The last call was made to someone named Rouf Ahmed, who is posted with the 175 battalion of the Territorial Army. He was summoned, too, but he denied knowing my brother. He was let go,” Lone Sr was quoted saying. “Police later told the family that they had arrested a woman Feroz had called up, who claimed to have killed him. The woman allegedly told police that she had dumped the body in a river but the body was never found.” The family had taken the lady’s confession as truth. “Sometime later, the woman was released by police,” Zahoor was quoted saying.

IG Kashmir Vijay Kumar has told the website that “police do not have any information about this until now but we are looking into the matter”.

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About Author

A Mass Communication and Journalism postgraduate from the University of Kashmir, Khalid is a writer by choice and a journalist by chance.

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