“Oh! Look, the stitches are still here on his feet. He is my son. He is 100% my son. We have found our son,” exclaimed Manzoor Ahmad Wagay, inside a four storied district hospital Kulgam in south Kashmir, to his family.
Earlier today morning, while the Wagay family was having their breakfast at their home in Reshipora village of south Kashmir’s Shopian district, a call interrupted them.
“A body has been found in Mohammadpora. why don’t you come and have a look at it,” the caller said.
Wagay left the breakfast and went to his neighboring village. He only hoped to finally find his missing son, even if it meant only his body.
“The moment I saw the haircut and the teeth of the body,” Wagay told The Kashmir Walla. “I knew it was my son’s body.”
Since August 2020, Wagay had been searching for his son – Shakir Manzoor Wagay, 24, a rifleman with the 162 Battalion of army’s Territorial unit, who went missing.
Shakir was studying and wanted to be a doctor but due to the bad economic conditions of the family, he had quit to join the army. His father described him as a “sober and intelligent boy.”
Wagay said that they were very happy with his job and satisfied too and were never worried about anything. His father had never told him to quit the army job. “We were all happy and at peace with what he was doing,” he said.
A year of grief
It was the second of Eid-ul-adha. Shakir, who had joined the army three years back, was earlier posted in Srinagar city but had been posted in the Balpora area of Shopian for two weeks. On 2 August 2020, he reached home at 11 am and had lunch with his family. At around 4pm he left in his own car, his father said.
An hour later, Wagay said that Shakir told him over phone that it would take him more time to reach back ‘as something urgent has come up.’ “I believe he was captured by the militants at that time,” said Wagay.
It was the last time Wagay spoke to his son. A day later, a First Information Report (FIR) was filed and a painful struggle for his father began.
An official statement issued the next day by the army said that Shakir’s burnt car had been found in neighbouring Kulgam district. “It is suspected that the soldier has been abducted by (militants). Search op in progress,” it added.
On the third day, Wagay further said that a farmer informed him that his son was being beaten up in his orchard. “When I went there, I found his blood and torn clothes,” he recalled, adding he brought his son’s clothes home. “We tried everything after that but we found nothing,” he said. “Even his car was burnt.”
For months, Wagay said that he kept searching for his son, digging ‘every orchard and every field.’ “Whatever was in my hand, I did that for my son,” he added.
Wagay was now left with two sons and four married daughters. One of his sons recently met with an accident and became paralysed. The younger one also quit studying because of family conditions.
The search ends after a year
When Wagay reached the village, following up on the caller’s request, he saw a group of people around a body. He said that it was wrapped in an old jacket and a trouser with almost no skin.
“It is clearly a year old body,” he said, adding that his son would often wear a bangle, which was still hanging on the arm of the body.
Wagay clicked pictures of the body, which was shifted to the district hospital for medical report. Two hours after finding the body, Wagay told The Kashmir Walla that he was 90% sure that the body was of his son.
“The body is in a very bad state,” he said. “There is no skin and the neck is completely cut. Only the feet and the legs have some flesh on them.”
At the Kulgam hospital, where the body was brought, a relative pointed out: “Look at the teeth, what do you think?”
Wagay told him that it looks like his son. Shakir’s sisters, who had surrounded the body, would touch the body but Wagay objected. “We have to get his tests done first, don’t touch him,” he told his daughters.
As per Wagay, his son had met with an accident a few years back and had marks of stitches on his foot. When Wagay found the same marks of stitches on the foot of the body, while moving it to the other side, he exclaimed with joy. He had found his son.
“I am thankful to Allah that I got the body finally,” he said, adding that the family has no grudges against anyone but Shakir “will get his reward hereafter”.