KASHMIR’S DISAPPEARED

Father of two sons who disappeared in custody more than a decade ago in Nepal has only one wish—to see his sons once

Muhammad Shafi Rah,35,and Mushtaq Ahmad Rah, 30, were working in a leather factory in Nepal after the two brothers shifted to Kathmandu, Nepal in 1995 from Srinagar to earn a living. But all their dreams of settling in with their modest business remained unrealized. On September 5, 2000 the two brothers were arrested by a joint team of police from Nepal and New Delhi who had launched a crackdown on Kashmiri businessmen in Nepal following the hijacking of an Indian airliner. Thirteen years have gone past since their arrest in Nepal, but the two brothers remain untraced.

“After I heard of their arrest, I immediately rushed to Nepal where the authorities told me that they have shifted my sons to Jodhpur jail,” says Abdul Ahad Rah, the ailing 76-year-old father of Shafi and Mushtaq. When Ahad rushed to Jodhpur jail, initially the authorities there acknowledged that his sons were detained in the jail. But they told him to get permission and documents from a Srinagar court first. Ahad returned to Kashmir and it took him some months to arrange all the court documents. But when he went back to Nepal along with the required court documents, he says the authorities there denied that his sons were lodged there. “The jail authorities in Jodhpur told us that they were under instructions to refuse all requests for a meeting,” says Ahad.

During their stay in Jodhpur, Ahad says they were questioned and harassed by the CID. “They said that there had been a newspaper report that an attack was being planned upon the jail,” Ahad says in an affidavit. “They threatened us, saying that if there was any attack we would be arrested. We were scared and retuned to Srinagar.”

The Kathmandu Post, which is the largest selling newspaper in Nepal, published the news about the arrest of Kashmiris in Nepal in 2000. The news item mentioned the names of Mushtaq and Shafi among the 27 arrested, stating that out of 27 arrestees, 10 were released and the rest taken to the unknown secret detention centers. “Most of the arrested were released after short periods of detention but my two sons and a few others were taken away from Kathmandu in vehicles and were never seen again,” Abdul Ahad says in a witness affidavit filed before State Human Rights Commission, Srinagar.

Prior to the arrest of his sons from Nepal, Ahad says their house at Mahraj Gung Srinagar was raided on June 20, 2000 by the police. “In July 2000, there was another raid on our house and I was arrested and kept in Cargo, Aluchibagh detention Centre,” Ahad mentions in his affidavit filed before the SHRC. “I was kept in custody for seven days ….During interrogation I was made to provide complete details of my family, the whereabouts of my sons and their activities.”in the past the family had also filed a petition in Delhi High Court, but the case was rejected by the court on the grounds that “they cannot act on the basis of information contained in the newspapers.”  

Over the past more than one decade Ahad says they have written to many ministers, human rights commissions and approached police and government officials in the state and in New Delhi. “But they have not been able to trace the whereabouts of my sons,” he says. “They are only concerned ab

out their chairs. We have met many government officials and ministers, but no one helped us to locate our sons.”
Rah has been searching endlessly for his sons, hoping to get any news about the whereabouts of his sons for more than a decade now. When he visited Nepal soon after the disappearance of his son, he was told that Kathmandu police handed them over to the Indian officials. After Jodhpur jail authorizes denied their arrest, Ahad was later informed that his sons are in Delhi jail. “We were also given the phone number of a person who could provide information about my sons, but the concerned person did not meet us,” he says.

Since then, besides meeting numerous government officials and ministers, Rah continued to visit the jails in and outside the state to search for his sons. But no help was forthcoming.  “Whenever I approached the ministers, police and civil administration, they would promise to help me but their promises were never delivered,” he says. “The state government here is indifferent towards our plight,” Rah says, making an appeal to the Chief Minister to help him in locating his sons. “If my sons have committed any crime, punish them, but first allow us to meet them,” he says while showing many files of documents and letters written to ministers and police and government officials over the years. The clipping of Kathmandu Post newspaper, which Rah has saved as proof of their arrest, has a news report in its September 8, 2000 issue about the “police operation against suspected Kashmiris.”

“My brothers were in their twenties at the time of their arrest in Nepal and both of them were unmarried,” says Mehrajudin, the elder son of Abdul Ahad. “Their disappearance devastated our family and my mother had to be operated on twice in these years,” he says. “She keeps weeping everyday and only talks about her sons.” “We have also participated in many protest demonstrations in the past with the members of APDP,” says Ahad, “but all we got in response were the lathis of police.”

For over one decade Ahad says they have has been searching for their sons despite their failing health and poor economic conditions. My sons have already been punished for 13 years now, he says, now we deserve at least one meeting with them. “They should allow us to meet them and tell us where they have jailed them,” he says. “You can jail them again then, but at least give us one mulakaat…”

“Their mother has lost her eyesight since the disappearance of our sons and we are living a miserable life in their absence,” he says. “Our last wish is to see both our sons once.”
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