| A family of an enforced disappearance victim, Manzoor, choosing to break its long wait and declare him dead without ever knowing what happened to him is not a trivial matter; rather it is a reflection of huge tragedy that is catalysed by various impediments – from militarisation and victimization to the State’s brazen ways of shielding its guilty men in uniform. That truth has not seen the light of the day in a single case of disappearance despite consistent struggles and tribulations of their families is a shameful telling comment on the patronised patterns of impunity exercised by the State against its citizens.
This is the first time that funeral prayers were offered for a victim of enforced disappearance in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly the valley. It cannot be an easy or acceptable closure. It has been built not on knowledge but complete hopelessness, a dead end brought by closure by the SIT investigation and years of moving from pillar to post that did not yield. The acceptance comes not from a belief that he is dead but because of fatigue stemming from years of torture and trauma of uncertainty. The closure is not natural; it is enforced, as enforced as the disappearance of man picked up by security forces and missing since then. It cannot be a closure because nobody has been held accountable. If the SIT concluded that Manzoor may have been killed in custody or fake encounter, why is it that nobody is being pinned for the act. Any voluntary act of closure in any case must be based on principles of justice and this case does not fulfill that requirement. Principle of justice demands that the legal justice system as per the constitution functions to unravel the truth about the missing person and reach a scientific conclusion on whether he was dead or alive. Instead of ensuring that the security forces who picked him up be subject to interrogation, all efforts were made by State’s agencies to wipe off evidence and traces of his being. The entire strategy is aimed at keeping truth under wraps and tiring out the campaigners for justice, pushing them to the brink, forcing them to accept defeat, not sense of justice, exposing a brutal practice legitimized from the top.
The tyranny of the whole affair is evident from the fact that enforced disappearances are not an aberration. They are the norm. According to rough estimates, at least 10,000 people have disappeared in custody of various security agencies in the last two and a half decades. In many of these cases, legal battles are being pursued but they have remained inconclusive with the security agencies responsible for the detentions failing to give any information and the legal justice system failing the victims from making them accountable. Hundreds and hundreds of families of persons who vanished in their custody have been pursuing the cause for justice for years, not only through campaigns and protests but also through legal battles which have been prolonged and kept pending, unnecessarily. In many of these cases, documents do point out to enough evidence about the men in question having been picked up by some security personnel and thereafter no investigations have progressed. The moot question is why men in authority, recruited to protect the citizens of the country, have not been held accountable for their acts which are purely illegal and inhumane and do not conform either to the Indian laws or the international humanitarian laws. The only way the knotty issue of custodial disappearances can be tackled is by beginning right at the very first step of interrogating accused officials, some of whom have been clearly named in the FIRs and the court cases.
Pushed to the brink, Manzoor’s family may have decided to seek solace in a psychological closure by offering his funeral prayers in absentia. If this is the end of the case, it reveals that the State fails its citizens – not accidentally but deliberately and calculatedly. That is an appalling reality in a democratic country.
News Updated at : Wednesday, January 20, 2016