Gudwan Poshwan, a small hamlet near Pulwama town in southern Kashmir, wore a mournful look on Wednesday. Its residents had just returned from burying a young boy, whose body was fished out of the Jhelum from the Awantipora area a few kilometres away.
Locals said there were “torture marks” all over the body of the victim, identified as 18-year-old Zahoor Ahmad from the nearby Kisirgam Kakapora village. “His wrists were slashed, his legs bore cuts. It was difficult to even identify him,” said a resident.
Zahoor had reportedly left home to attend slain militant Burhan Wani’s funeral, but never returned. “Everybody was searching for him. Someone said he was picked up by security forces. Today, they found his body,” said another Gudwan Poshwan resident. The boy is survived by his mother, a differently-abled brother and four sisters. His father had died a few years ago.
As the cause of Zahoor’s death was unclear, his name did not figure in the list of 35 killed in the Kashmir violence until now. The list gets updated in the local papers every day.
Official figures post a much lower estimate of casualties, with the Srinagar police insisting that not over 25 people have died in the violence. Villagers – on the other hand – say many youngsters have gone missing ever since the violence erupted on July 9. The snapping of communication links has made tracing them all the more difficult.
After their return from Zahoor’s funeral, the villagers gathered at the residence of Irfan Ahmad – a 15-year-old boy who died on the first day of the agitation. Slowly, they listed out the names of all the people who were either dead, lost or in custody.
A villager recounted how 14 of a family from the nearby Newa village were detained by security personnel while travelling to Srinagar to donate blood to an injured relative. Nobody has heard from them since then.
Another resident described how one of three boys riding a bike was picked up by security personnel on Tuesday. “We went to their camp today to fetch him, but they denied having anybody in custody,” he said.
Reports of missing people poured in from other places across south Kashmir as well. A couple in Srinagar had to postpone their daughter’s wedding, scheduled for July 20, after the groom’s elder brother disappeared. “The wedding is out of the question until he is traced,” said a relative of the bride.
It is believed that the number of dead and disappeared people will rise once the communication networks are restored. Telephone and Internet services in the Valley have been cut since Wani’s death on Friday.
While a youngster – identified as Bashir Ahmad Dar of Anantnag – was killed in police firing on Wednesday, two others reportedly succumbed to their injuries in Srinagar. Clashes were also reported from Srinagar, besides south and north Kashmir.