Govt never ad­dressed the is­sue of thou­sands of ‘miss­ing’ Kash­miris

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Nation - Randeep Singh Nan­dal

Srinagar: The con­tem­po­rary Kashmir nar­ra­tive is in­com­plete with­out the cit­ing of unattributed 100,000 killed in the last 20 years of con­flict. The same nar­ra­tive also has an unattributed num­ber of those who’ve dis­ap­peared: 10,000. This is the num­ber of Kash­miris picked up, taken for in­ter­ro­ga­tion, starved, beaten and tor­tured in the last two decades, go­ing by those who make the claim — the lead­ing one among them: As­so­ci­a­tion of Par­ents of Dis­ap­peared Per­sons (APDP).

The ‘dis­ap­peared’ have an emo­tional hold on all Kash­miris. Even the most ‘main­stream’ of Kash­miris get worked up on this is­sue. Ev­ery time they hear 10,000 men have been taken to in­ter­ro­ga­tion cen­tres, beaten, starved, and tor­tured with elec­tric shocks, there is out­rage.

The gov­ern­ment has never ad­dressed this is­sue, but APDP, headed by Par­weena Ahangar (52), keeps their mem­ory alive. Ahangar has worked tire­lessly to dis­cover the fate of the 10,000 peo­ple. She lost her 16-year-old son Javid in 1990. He was picked up by the po­lice and she never saw him again. She set up APDP in 1994 and has since taken it on her­self to help oth­ers like her.

Ahangar’s ef­forts have en­sured that the ‘‘dis­ap­peared of Kashmir’’ are re­mem­bered across the world. A Google search will show thou­sands of sites: From Al Jazeera sto­ries to ma­jor west­ern pa­pers re­ports and hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tion talk­ing about the 10,000 Kash­miris who van­ished.

In 2005, Ahangar was joint nom­i­nee for the No­bel Peace prize and in Septem­ber this year she will travel to Ire­land as a fi­nal­ist for the Front­line Hu­man Rights Award. APDP had jour­nal­ism stu­dents from Delhi work­ing with them re­cently. ‘‘We thought they should be ex­posed to the re­al­ity of what the In­dian gov­ern­ment is do­ing here. They will help make In­dia aware of the fate of thou­sands of brothers and hus­bands who never re­turned,’’ said she.

Ex­cept that her story has a fa­tal flaw. APDP, the only or­gan­i­sa­tion rep­re­sent­ing the dis­ap­peared, has only 350 names to show af­ter 16 years of spade­work. That’s a stag­ger­ing dif­fer­ence; the fig­ure of 10,000 is 30 times higher. Still, this fig­ure is un­ques­tion­ingly quoted by both in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions, jour­nal­ists and the av­er­age Kash­miri.

The state gov­ern­ment ac­knowl­edges some 1,200 peo­ple are miss­ing, but claims most are men who crossed the LoC and stayed there. In fact, it claims that its re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pol­icy is specif­i­cally di­rected to­wards these men, many of whom have mar­ried and started fam­i­lies in POK. They re­ject APDP fig­ures.

Per­haps stung by the gov­ern­ment’s charge, APDP, since Novem­ber 2010, has started a sur­vey to col­late the de­tails of the dis­ap­peared — a sur­vey fi­nanced by UNHCR. But in seven months, it has cov­ered only Srinagar and Kup­wara of the 10 dis­tricts in the state. Re­spon­dents have to fill in a nine-page form that in­cludes de­tails about the peo­ple miss­ing, the ed­u­ca­tional and eco­nomic sta­tus of the fam­ily and de­tails about the legal ac­tion or doc­u­ments like miss­ing re­ports FIRs filed.

The re­sult of this sev­en­month ef­fort has been 200 more names, but, in most case, APDP ac­knowl­edges the de­tails pro­vided are in­com­plete so even they are un­sure. There isn’t even a time­line for the com­ple­tion of the sur­vey. ‘‘This can take years. We’ve to go door to door, and also ver­ify that the ac­count given to us is fac­tual. So I see a min­i­mum of two to three years,’’ said an APDP of­fi­cial.

The ex­pla­na­tion is per­plex­ing on many counts. The Kashmir Val­ley isn’t a large place; its about 150km long and 50km wide. Anant­nag, So­pore Bara­mulla, Bandipura, Pul­wama are within two of hours of Srinagar. The state has a high lit­er­acy and ex­cel­lent roads. There’s noth­ing to stop APDP from ad­ver­tis­ing in lo­cal pa­pers ask­ing peo­ple to come for­ward on a given day with de­tails of their rel­a­tives who are miss­ing in any of these dis­tricts.

Nor is it clear why it has taken seven months to cat­a­logue just two dis­tricts, that too in­com­pletely. If APDP’s voice can reach Geneva, Lon­don, Dublin and New York, it can surely be heard in Tral and Shopian?

APDP must also an­swer how ex­actly it ar­rived at the fig­ure of 10,000 with a list of 350 names. ‘‘It’s fear. Many fam­i­lies are scared. That’s why they kept quiet,’’ said one APDP of­fi­cial. It’s this fear that, APDP claims, made 9,650 fam­i­lies do noth­ing for 20 long years, as year af­ter year their sons, hus­bands and brothers were sys­tem­at­i­cally picked up and van­ished.

Even 350 men miss­ing is tragic. It means 350 fam­i­lies have been de­stroyed in 20 years. But for 20 years the ‘‘thou­sands miss­ing’’ calls have only made the gov­ern­ment tren­chant in dis­miss­ing these claims. These 350 Kash­miri men, like their brothers who live in the Val­ley, are pawns in a pro­pa­ganda war. Serv­ing a higher cause, a cause that brooks no pity, a cause that de­mands sac­ri­fices.

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