Srinagar: In a major departure from the regular skirmishes and the existing cold war scenario between governments and the security forces, the Indian Army on Thursday broke protocol and handed over the body of a seven-year-old boy who had drowned in Kishenganga river. The minor's body was washed up in Gurez sector on this side of the Line of Control.
The boy had drowned in Minimarg area of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) on Monday, they said.
Abid Sheikh had accidentally fallen into the Neelam river, which is called Kishenganga in India, in Gilgit area across the LoC. By the time his body was fished out, it had travelled several kilometres, frequently hitting boulders in the furiously flowing river.
"The body was in a decomposed state, with a lot of marks on it," an Army official who was part of the team that handed over the body to its Pakistani counterparts told News 18.
Lt General KJS Dhillon, General Officer Commander of the 15 Corps who heads the Army in Kashmir, was closely monitoring the handover since Thursday morning.
"We ensured that the body was handed over at Gurez, which is near the place of the accident. The Pakistan army had told us to transfer it at Teetwal, but we preferred Gurez since it was closer for the distraught family," he said.
Dhillon told News 18 that the sensibilities of the family were taken care of and the body handed over respectfully. "A 'moulvi' (cleric) was called to supervise the special prayers and we were keen the rituals were in accordance with his religion," he added.
India and Pakistan have frequently exchanged stranded civilians who have strayed along the LoC or the International Border or the bodies of its civilians who slip to death in the bordering rivers.
According to sources, the Army acted after Pakistani authorities flagged the issue of sending back Sheikh's body. But it was an emotive appeal by the boy's father and uncles on social media that prompted the Army to act swiftly.
The incident came amid the existing tension between the two countries. In February, the Indian Air Force targeted a Jaish-e-Mohammad training centre in Pakistan after its local operative in Kashmir triggered a deadly explosion that killed 40 CRPF men in Pulwama. Indian and Pakistani armies exchange mortar and bullet firing on a daily basis, but handing over the minor's body in Gurez will come as a major relief to the pro-peace constituency.