IOK woman wants to see her father’s killer punished

Srinagar, January 19 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, daughter of Manzoor Ahmed Dar, who was subjected to custodial disappearance by an Indian Army officer, wants to see her father’s killer punished.

Bilquees was 14-year-old when a man in Indian army uniform took her father away during a raid on their home in Rawalpora, Srinagar, on the night of January 18, 2002. She vowed to see the man, who she later identified as Major Kishore Malhotra, in jail, even as the case of custodial disappearance reached a dead end in 2015 when the Indian Supreme Court sent it to defense ministry. By then Major Malhotra had risen to the rank of a Brigadier in the Indian army.

The young woman who is now a tax auditor and married, with children to look after, remembers the smirk on the face of the man telling her and her mother that Manzoor Dar would be released after a “conversation”. “But, we knew what a late night raid meant those days,” Bilquees in a media interview said.

Finally, when an FIR into Dar’s disappearance was registered on February 3, 2002 the case came into limelight and police investigation started. As the case took many turns during the course of the investigation later taken up by a special investigation team of police, the army officer Malhotra was thoroughly interrogated at least on four occasions.

The army officer, Kishore Malhotra, was summoned by the High Court in 2008 in connection with the case of Dar’s disappearance. The following year the SIT of police closed the case on grounds that no evidence was found against the involved army officer, and the court dismissed the case. However, Bilquees again approached the High Court which ordered a reinvestigation into the case in 2012. “In 2013, I remember when I was called inside Badamibagh cantonment (Army headquarters in Srinagar) to identity the Major. There was a group of officers. I scanned their faces only to find the dreaded face of Major Kishore Malhotra,” Bilquees said. “He was stunned to find that I recognised him.”

In 2015, the High Court passed an order saying the officer should have been arrested and subjected to interrogation. But nothing happened. The following year, Dar’s family and his neighbours held a funeral in absentia for him at Rawalpora which was joined by a large number of people. It was rare occasion when a funeral was held for a disappeared person in occupied Kashmir’s history after the 1990s when the phenomenon of enforced disappearances began.

“Behind organizing it (the funeral) was to establish that my father was killed in custody. What else could I do when everything had been proved in the case, but still justice was not delivered?” says Bilquees. “But I want the killer to face the law,” she added.

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