Of disappeared and amnesty package

Grant of amnesty to Kashmiri youth waiting for home coming in Pakistan evoked mixed reaction in Kashmir.  While the commoner, by and large welcomed it, a section of political spectrum saw a `conspiracy’ in the package.

Some people have already arrived from Pakistan administered Kashmir and Pakistan. They were detained for a month or so and then set free. All of them are leading a happy life. They have been directed to ensure their presence in the concerned police stations twice a week.

 

 

The reaction of the human rights groups, however, did not go well with the government. They said: “The state government has been saying that the disappeared youth are in Pakistan seeking arms training. Now that amnesty has been granted to them, they must return.” However, none among the persons who have returned is in the list of the disappeared persons.

Renowned human rights defender and founder of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), Parvez Imroz had said:  “The statements issued in response to allegations of enforced disappearances will be put to litmus test in the coming days when the home coming starts. The government has been saying that the youth shown in the list of disappeared persons by human rights groups had gone to Pakistan to seek arms training. If they are really in Pakistan, they must return.”

Today Imroz has been proven right. As mentioned above nobody in the list of disappeared has availed the package.  His demand of DNA profiling of bodies buried in unmarked/mass graves also stands justified.

According to APDP 8000-10,000 persons have been subjected to enforced disappearance since 1989. The government vehemently contests this figure. A series of contradictory statements have been issued by successive state governments. Amid these claims and counterclaims truth has become a casualty and one is forced to believe that the government is hiding something.  

The former coalition government headed by Mufti Muhammad Sayeed had promised a probe into custodial disappearances but the promise could not be fulfilled. The incumbent Chief Minister repeatedly took Mufti Sayeed to task for his government’s record on human rights. Addressing a press conference on May 2, 2008 Omar Abdullah said 4000 Kashmiris were subjected to enforced disappearance by the state since 1990.   

The process of issuing statements on custodial disappearances started in July 2002. Former Home Minister, Khalid Najeeb Soharwardy issued a statement on July 18, 2002.  He admitted 3184 custodial disappearances since 1989. Another statement was issued by the former Chief Minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed on February 25, 2003. “During 2000, 1553 persons disappeared in the state, 1586 in 2001 and 605 in 2002”, he informed the assembly. This was followed by former law minister, Muzaffar Husain Beig’s statement on March 25, 2003. He told the assembly that 3744 persons had disappeared out of whom 135 had been declared dead up to June 2002.

 This was followed by a shocking statement by Mufti Muhammad Sayeed in April 2003. He said: “Only 60 persons had disappeared since inception of militancy in the state.” These figures were provided during a joint press conference by the Prime Minister and Mufti Sayed. Mufti contradicted this statement on June 11, 2003 when he said 3744 persons were reported missing from 1990 till December 31, 2002. The tragedy of contradictions did not end here. In yet another statement, the minister of state for Home, Abdul Rehman Veeri stated on June 21, 2003 that 3931 persons had been reported missing since 1989 to June 2003.

When Ghulam Nabi Azad took over as chief minister, he informed the legislative assembly during zero hour in March 2006 that 693 cases of custodial disappearances had been registered. His deputy, Muzaffar Husain Beig informed the assembly on August 1, 2006 that sixty persons had disappeared during National Conference rule. On August 4, 2006 Azad told the legislators that 33 custodial disappearances had taken place since 1990-1996. On the next day (August 5) he said 60 persons were subjected to custodial disappearance since 1995-2006.

These contradictory statements reflect that the government has been desperately trying to conceal the truth. In response to a  list issued by APDP a few years ago, the police said that most of the persons in the list had crossed over to Pakistan administered Kashmir to seek arms training.

What explanation has the government to offer now?  Now is the time when the government must come out with a clear statement on the disappeared persons.  Feeding lies to the public will not work now. Let the truth prevail.

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