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AAQIB JAVAID

“Disappearance” : the Oxford dictionary defines this word as ” An act or the fact of someone or something going missing”. In the dictionary of Kashmir this vocable is tagged with 10,000 civilians — disappeared by variant fraction of Indian Army in past two decades. And these 10000 disappeared persons are too linked with person whose only body appear in this imperalistic world.

This burden of Pain is mostly carried by the women of the sufi valley — the mothers, wives and daughters of these disappeared persons — who still starving for their kith and kin, often in abject poverty.

Mothers vailing for his son like their kids had never took birth. Palms of brides reflects like they were never been coloured with the ‘henna’. Children wander in the open sky, like they were kin of ‘ Mariam’.

This story starts yelping more than two decades ago, in 1989, when the separatist’s rebellious insurgency thrived in Kashmir. India had gradually eroded any sense of Muslim-majority Kashmir’s autonomy, rigging elections and arresting and torturing opposition political activists. Weapon wars between the separatist guerrillas and the Indian troops were a daily dose routine; land mines and hand grenades exploded every other day in crowded markets, on empty roads. Streets of the saint valley were dominated with fear and became like graveyard after the dusk. According to conservative official estimates, by 1996, around 15,000 had been killed — a number that has since risen to more than 100000 now. Deployment of India’s military, paramilitary, Intelligence Bureau and Police forces in massive number pacified the rebellious province and tens of thousands of Kashmiri Civilians were taken into custody. Thousands never return. Different Human rights wings like Human rights Watch, Amnesty international and several indian right groups urged the Indian government to investigate the disappearances in Kashmir, but the government and the Army consistently argued that the missing weren’t dead. They had crossed over to Pakistan to train as militants. Stories of arrests, torture, killings, and secret burials were rife in Kashmir throughout the 1990s. Furthermore, by placing the state under emergency rule in July 1990, India granted its security forces substantial immunity as well as introduced judicial and extra judicial punishments such as laws enabling the law enforcement agencies to keep suspect under custody for up to a year.

In December 2009, it came into the common knowledge that thousands were killed and buried in unknown places turned out to be true. Soon then a report called “Buried Evidence” was published by the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir, a group of human rights activists led by a local rights group. This report conclusively documented the presence of 2,700 unmarked graves of unidentified people in three northern districts of the Kashmir Valley, close to the Line of Control. By the end of first decade of 21st century, the insurgency was almost over, and access to the heavily militarized border districts became relatively easier. Activists from the variant human right groups spent few weeks in the border areas helping victims of the late-2005 Kashmir earthquake. It was then that villagers began to reveal about the unmarked and mass graves. During the voluntarily investigation by the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, sought more information, eventually visiting 55 villages in northwestern Kashmir’s Baramulla, Kupwara, and Handwara districts, documenting the unmarked graves. This investigation report divulge that ; “In the 2,700 graves we investigated, the body count was 2,943+. Within the 2,700 graves, 154 graves contained two bodies each and 23 graves contained more than two cadavers. Within these 23 graves, the number of bodies ranged from 3 to 17.” After that new page of story opens, at that time i.e — “Most of the bodies had been delivered to local police by the military. The police would register their deaths as foreign terrorists, take pictures of the bodies —and then, late at night, go to the villagers demanding that they should be buried, quickly and quietly. Most bodies were bullet-riddled; many bore the marks of torture.”

The “Buried Evidence” report had raised slim hopes of an investigation into disappeared relatives, but the national and local governments ignored it. There was always uncertainty created by the all ruling government fraction (time to time) about the Number of disappeared persons. According to conservative estimates — more than 8000 people have been subjected to enforced disappearances in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989. In Omar Abdullah’s governance, the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) submitted 1417 cases. This was the preliminary list of cases of enforced disappearances documented by APDP. It is clear from the data submitted to the Chief Minister that enforced disappearances in Kashmir remain unabated and unaddressed. Everytime successive governments have been issuing contradictory statements regarding enforced disappearances in Jammu and Kashmir. On 18th July 2002, then Home Minister of National Conference government, Mr. Khalid Najeeb Suharwardy said that 3184 persons were missing since 1989. On 11th June 2003, the People’s Democratic Party led government claimed 3744 persons are ‘missing’ in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989 and later on 21st June 2003 the government stated that 3931 persons are ‘missing.’ Mr. Omar Abdullah stated in a 2nd May 2008 press conference that 4000 persons have disappeared. This statement came when Mr. Abdullah was in the opposition. Uncertainty related to number by the government never came to an end and so far government has never brought into the public domain the list of these ‘missing persons’ and nor has it revealed the action taken in each case.

On 10th of every month their has been a sit-in protest by APDP members and other human right groups to draw attention to the fate of those who are imprisoned in places unknown to their families. Many mark it in their diaries as an important photo opportunity. Some even show initiative and issue an emotionally fuelled statement. But for these families it is another reminder of what they had been robbed of — justice, closure and, most importantly, another day they could have spent with those who are now missing. Decades too disappear now but the voice is losing in the thin air.

Noted Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali, wrote in his 1997 collection “The Country Without a Post Office” :

“And the night’s sun there in Srinagar? Guns shoot stars into the sky, the storm of constellations night after night, the infinite that rages on….srinagar was under curfew. The identity pass may or may not have helped in the crackdown. Son after son — never to return from the night of torture — was taken away.”

AAQIB JAVAID is Student of intellectual and property rights at Jamia Hamdard University, New Delhi.

Email: [email protected]

Originally published on Kashmir Watch

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