Within Hours, How A Leh Woman’s Mortal Remains Were Shifted From Baltistan?

SRINAGAR: Normally it would take hotlines and too much of bureaucracy to manage this. But a simple tweet can be a low-cost solution to even complex problems even in times when none of the three nuclear neighbours sleep properly owing to Sino-Indian tensions in Ladakh.

Khairrunnissa, a Leh village housewife washed away by the river to Baltistan being fished out on September 8, 2020. Pic: Tehreer News

Khairunnissa, wife of Abbas Ali, a resident of Bogdang in Leh was missing since August 26. She left the husband’s home and went missing. The family had informed the police but had no idea where the lady went. But they had some idea that the river could have been the main killer of the mother of three. Though they had reported the case to the police, they still somehow conveyed the message of the missing to their relatives living on the other side of the LoC in Baltistan. The family has remained in touch with their relatives on the other side of the Line of Control through WhatsApp.

What is interesting the Bagdong village became part of Jammu and Kashmir during the 1971 war. The cousins of the residents of this village live barley 4 km away in Thugmas village. Though 4 km apart, it is the Shyok river crisscrosses the mountain range for 10 km to reach Baltistan.

On Tuesday morning, the residents of Chhorbat village in Baltistan traced the body floating in the Shyok river and fished out it. The family of the relatives took its control, offered the funeral and informed the local government. The news was reported in some detail by a local website in Baltistan.

Now the issue was to get the corpse. Knowing fully well how the dead bodies are being exchanged by the two sides, a local columnist Sher Ali Anjum tweeted that it would be better if the body is not sent home through a 5000-km road via Wagha and instead handed over to the other side on the border by removing some of the border fence, somewhere. Given the situation, exchanging bodies is a very difficult process. Thang is the main border outpost of both the sides separating the two villages.

But in Khairunisa case, the follow up was interesting. News agency United News of India, apparently scanning the Pakistani websites, landed on the news of the recovery of the body in Baltistan. It reported that it quickly rang up R K Mathur, the Lieutenant Governor of Leh and sought details. “You e-mail me the questions,” Mathur told the UNI, as reported by Delhi based newspaper Qaumi Awaaaz. The news agency then rang up, the Police Control Room Leh and they said they have no idea. “This was despite the fact that the public advertisement issued about the missing carried the PCR phone number,” the UNI added.

Even when the news was published, somebody tagged Sajad Kargil, a journalist who unsuccessfully contest last Lok Sabha poll. It was on the basis of this information that Sajad tweeted the details and requested the UT Ladakh administration to use the proper channel to bring back the body. That was on September 8.

In Srinagar, Waheed ur Rehman Parra, PDP youth leader picked SAjad’s tweet and re-tweeted it by tagging the External Affairs Minister and Pakistan Prime Minister on September 9, saying: “Humanity must prevail. It is the duty of government’s of India & Pak to help the family in distressed times. Bring back the body of lady so that family could do the last rites.”

On the other side of the divide, columnist Mehr Tarar picked the information and got in touch with the concerned in Baltistan. The response came quickly, Gilagit Baltistan Home Secretary, Mohammad Ali Randhawa put on Twitter that the body has been actually retrieved.

“Mrs Kherun nisa age 30 yrs wife of Abbas Ali resident of Bogdang went missing on 26th August 2020. Body was recovered by locals of Village Chorbat from Shayok river. After confirmation the body was shifted to DHQ Ghanche and subsequently to DHQ Skardu and placed in mortuary,” Randhawa put the information on Twitter. “Military authorities informed the Indian counterparts and it has been decided to hand over the body at CUCP (Chilyana URI Crossing point).” It was today only that the body of the Leh lady was shifted via road to Muzaffarabad. It is likely to reach there by midday tomorrow.

The body would have been returned in normal circumstances – albeit with a delay – had there been a claim. Given the crisis between the two countries, it was impossible to make a claim but the platforms like Twitter are helping people to connect in real-time and solve the complex issue simply.

With the issue of the dead body settled, all the people involved in managing help to the Leh family are thanking each other. Meanwhile, it was not immediately known if the family will have to travel to Srinagar to get the body or the government may drive it home after receiving it at the Line of Control. The body was not sent on a 5000 km drive to reach to the ancestral cemetery but it still had to travel almost 750 km.

(More than 24 hours after, some new information was added to the report)

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