The day of the disappeared

In March this year, the government admitted that 341 persons had been subjected to extra-judicial execution in Jammu Kashmir since 1990. This was stated by Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah while answering a question in the Legislative Assembly today.

Omar also made a mention of 113 people — 99 from Poonch and 14 from Rajouri, who according to him, have went missing. 

Omar has tactfully used the word missing for disappeared persons. The intention of the chief minister, according to noted human rights activists and patron of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), Parvez Imroz is to mislead the gullible people of India.

Imroz said around 8000 persons disappeared from custody of various security agencies since 1989. By using the word missing for them, the government is trying to dilute the gravity of the offence. Pertinent to mention, enforced disappearance has been described as crime against humanity by the UN. “All disappeared persons succumbed to inhuman torture. Their bodies were disposed off to defeat penal laws. Therefore, disappearance is a much severe form of custodial death”, Imroz said.

The government has been making contradictory statements about disappearance. The former coalition government headed by Mufti Muhammad Sayed had promised a probe into custodial disappearances but the promise could not be fulfilled. The incumbent chief minister repeatedly took Mufti Sayed 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 Sayed 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 Sayed 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.

The government once again showed its desperation last week when it directed the state human rights commission (SHRC) to close investigation in mass/unmarked graves discovered by the International tribunal for Justice in Indian Kashmir (IPTK) and the APDP in North Kashmir.

The government said that the investigation shall now be held by the yet to be formed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).  The relatives of the disappeared persons have already rejected the commission for various reasons. According to them, it is aimed at conferring impunity on the perpetrators in a refined form.  

The government’s rehabilitation policy has exploded these claims. Around 62 applications have been received by the police from aggrieved parents seeking return of their wards from Pakistan. Not a single application has been filed by the relatives of `missing persons’.    

 On the International day of the disappeared, hapless relatives will once again voice their concern. But is anybody listening?  Alas! The disappeared persons will never know that the `civilised’ world has dedicated a day to them.
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