Tragedy of contradictions

The next of kin of the disappeared persons have rejected recent statement of the DIG (CID), Ashok Bhan on custodial disappearances as yet another attempt to hood wink local and international opinion. The DGP said that no custodial disappearance had been reported since "past few years." If DGP’s few years mean the past five or six years then he needs to recheck the official statistics. For his information 298 disappearances have been reported during the said period. Officially 22 custodial disappearances have been admitted from November 2002 to September 1, 2007.

According to the Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons (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. However, the contradiction in official statements forces one to use a different yardstick for APDP data.

The APDP has repeatedly sought appointment of an enquiry commission to probe all disappearances. "If government claims are based on truth let them appoint a commission. Why are they reluctant to probe disappearances", said APDP legal advisor, Parvez Imroz. Similar demands have been made by Parveena Ahanger who heads the APDP. 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 upto 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. This is exactly what the governments in Nepal and Pakistan tell the traumatized relatives of the disappeared persons. In Nepal they are told that the missing persons had escaped to India. In Pakistan they are told that the missing persons were consumed by the war in Afghanistan. And in Kashmir they are told that the disappeared persons went to Pakistan.

That the government wants to conceal the truth stands proved by the observations made by the SHRC in its reports. In its report of 2005-2006, the SHRC observed: "In last two consecutive reports the anxiety of the commission has vehemently been expressed against the non-implementation of the recommendations of the commission. The grievance has however, neither been registered nor addressed to. The commission feels shocked to find those people in whose favour recommendations are made, coming weeping and wailing with the complaint that the exercise of the commission was futile. They are justified in saying so; because after loss of sufficient time and money the recommendations are not implemented. This way the profile of the commission has been impaired. The commission knows its legal position. It may not be obligatory for the government to implement all the recommendations, but ignoring and brushing aside all the recommendations means showing utter disregard to the Act." (SIC) Pg 4.

The SHRC again observed in its report 2006-2007 on page 5. "The commission is disappointed to place on record to the effect that its entire recommendations are blatantly rejected by the government. What the government does in this behalf? They send the commission’s recommendations to the concerned deputy commissioners who forward it to tehsildars for necessary action but till date these recommendations are rejected by the revenue officers, though the recommendations made by the commission are well reasoned. The attempt is usually done by the deputy commissioners concerned who in no way can sit over the recommendations of the commission which headed by retired judge of the high court as higher form. We admit that the judgements of the commission are recommendatory in nature. Government cannot be compelled to implement all these recommendations of the commission, but however, sincerity should be shown by the government in dealing with such recommendations of the commission." (SIC).

The SHRC was created by an Act of the legislature in 1997 to ‘uphold’ human rights. The commission, however, accuses the government of insincerity viz-a-viz enforcement of human rights. A former chairperson of the SHRC went public stating the commission was a toothless tiger.

The government has shown utter disregard to the judiciary as well. In the history of the civilized world never has a judge expressed his helplessness in an open court. But, in this neglected land it happened. In Jalil Andrabi’s case, a judge observed that the relatives of the deceased (Jalil) were justified in casting aspersions on the judiciary for its failure to dispense justice.
Successive state governments have sought sanction to prosecution under Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) since 1990. The government of India accorded sanction in 270 cases. No action has been taken against the culprits. A question arises. If the state governments did not want to prosecute the culprits involved in heinous offences, why was sanction for prosecution sought?

The local human rights groups have succeeded in making enforced disappearance a big international issue and the contradictions in government stand have only helped them. An impartial probe into enforced disappearances and extra-judicial executions can improve its image though not fully. But is anybody listening?
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