6 Months On, No Sign of Trekker Who Went Missing in J&K’s Gangbal; Family Distraught, Cops Stumped

The Dar family has lived in perpetual pain ever since their 24-year-old son disappeared mysteriously during a trekking expedition six months ago.

“We haven’t given up hope and want the government to help us find him. We have met advisors of the Lieutenant Governor, civil and police officers but nothing is working for us,” Irshad Ahmad, the distraught brother of Hilal Ahmad Dar, told News18.

A bright and ambitious man, Dar earned an MBA in 2018 and followed it up by bagging a PhD course in Kashmir University. He was looking up at a flourishing career with a private firm in Gurgaon.

At his home in Bemina, a well-off locality in Srinagar, his family has been swaying between hope and despair even though there has been no lead in the search for him. The family vouches that Dar had no inclination towards militancy as he would remain busy with his career.

“He was paid a good salary in Gurgaon. After Covid protocols, he was told to work from home and so he decided to travel to Srinagar and spend time with his family. He kept working from here,” said Irshad. “Back in Srinagar, he obtained a scholarship from Kashmir University in August. He has so many options,” he added.

A police officer working on the case said there is no evidence that points to Dar having joined militancy. “We don’t have any clues. We have questioned the co-trekkers, but that has not helped us locate him. We are now going for narco test of the co-trekkers,” he said.

The family recalled that on June 14, Dar and his five friends started on a trek to Kolsar lake from Naranag, a base camp of sorts in Ganderbal district. The lake is congruous with a circuit of six or more high-altitude lakes, including the famous twin water bodies Gangbal and Nundkol that are separated by a strip of grassland.

Ardent trekkers start the 15-km climb from Naranag, a beautiful village next to the ruins of an ancient temple which lords over a roaring stream. From Naranag, they lug up a steep back-breaking feature called Budsheeri. A snaking track opens out at the vast and a scenic Gangbal valley. Minutes later, a brief stopover at Trinkund near a forest hut and a military facility helps trekkers recoup and walk past grasslands before hitting the twin lakes. More lakes lie in the vicinity.

“At 4:30 am that day, he took out his Scooty from home to fetch his friend who lives close by. Four more on other two bikes joined them enroute Naranag,” recalled Irshad.

Their journey from Naranag started at 6 am. They reached Trunkund meadow by 12:45 pm. It was here that the co-trekkers saw him last, according to the statement they gave to investigators probing the case.

They quoted Dar telling them to carry on with their journey till the lake and that he wouldn’t be able to walk as he was exhausted. Dar told them he would resume the journey to Srinagar upon their return.

“He had sent me a text message from Budsheeri saying he will would be back home by the evening and that he cannot text or call because the signal would be snapped deep in the mountains,” Irshad said, displaying his younger brother’s text on his cellphone.

Dar’s friends had told the police on their return from the lake that they could not find him at the designated meeting point and later at Naranag though his Scooty remained parked there.

Irshad, however, said that when he started to look for his brother in the forests the same evening, he was told by another group that Dar did not show any signs of exertion. “One trekker had seen him climbing up and told me he was not tired when I gave his (Dar’s) description.”

“My maternal uncle and I reached Naranag at 11 pm the same night. We took a few trekkers to search for him. Next morning, policemen and 15 men from the Gujjar and Bakerwal tribes joined, but we could not find him,” he said. The practice continued for many days without any success.

The police officer probing the case said five police teams, two SDRF and army teams each went to search for him, but to no avail. “Our investigations are on,” he said.

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