It seemed Zeba Begum was waiting for a ‘closure’. Two days after her granddaughter held an in-absentia funeral of her son Manzoor Ahmad Dar, 14 years after he was allegedly picked up by the security forces and went missing from custody, the 82-year-old Zeba breathed her last.
On Thursday, the family held her funeral at the same Rawalpora government school’s ground, with hundreds of locals attending it. Nearly a thousand people had taken part in Manzoor’s funeral in absentia on the same ground on Tuesday.
“Just minutes before she closed her eyes, she told us, ‘Once I meet my friend, we will pray for you all’,” Bilkees said about Zeba’s death. That “friend”, was Zeba’s son, and Bilkees’s father, Manzoor, a chemist fondly known as Doctor Sahib in his neighbourhood. Zeba called him “yaar”, a friend, Bilkees explained.
Although hundreds of families in the Valley have given up hope of reuniting with disappeared family members, this was the first time the funeral prayers were offered in absentia .
As The Indian Express reported on January 20, soldiers of 35 Rashtriya Rifles raided the family’s home in Rawalpora, in the outskirts of Srinagar city, on the intervening night of January 18 and 19, 2002 and allegedly picked up the chemist. There was no news of him since. The family moved the High Court after failing to trace him anywhere, and the court directed the police to constitute a special investigation team, which concluded that Manzoor might have been killed in custody.