International Human Rights Day is observed around the globe today on December 10. On this occasion, the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) pays tribute to thousands of the disappeared of Jammu and Kashmir. Around 8,000 to 10,000 cases of enforced disappearances have been reported in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989 when the freedom movement turned into an armed struggle against the Indian rule. This tribute is a reminder to the fact that we have to keep struggling until justice is not delivered. In addition, while paying tribute we reiterate that memory and resistance is our weapon to fight against power. As a repository of individual stories of loss and grief, APDP is creating a collective biography of struggle as its members meet and gather the 10th every month in a public space as an act of remembering, commemorating and grieving. “Return our disappeared children” is our collective chant. APDP continues its struggle to demand justice and accountability and to end impunity in Jammu and Kashmir. APDP demands an acknowledgement from the Indian state that they have committed the crimes against humanity, which will be an important step forward to get an assurance for its non-repetition and for prosecuting those who are guilty.
Enforced Disappearance has been declared as a crime against humanity, that violates multiple rights of the victim and his/her family. The families are subjected to mental and physical agony while looking for their kin and that very well amounts to torture. The rights that are violated as a result include Right to life and liberty, Right to Justice, Right to Know, Right to Reparations, Right to Family Life, Right to be recognised as a person before law, Right not to be subjected to torture, Right to Security. As there is no information from the Indian authorities about the disappeared, this results in excruciating agony to the kin of the victims in management of the land and property and raises legal complexities around inheritance rights.
The members of the APDP have spent much in determining the whereabouts of our disappeared kin, but to no avail. Our family life has got adversely affected and in some cases even beyond repair. Yet, we continue searching for our children in the hope that one day our disappeared will come back. One such parent, Mr. Abdul Ahad Bhat whose son was disappeared on 22-6-1991 bears testimony to the agony of our struggle. His disappeared son Farooq Ahmad Bhat was a 10th class student at the time of his disappearance. He also used to assist his father in running a shop. On the fateful day, at about 6 p.m. he was picked up from the shop by BSF (Boarder Security Force), 102 Battalion of the Indian Army in presence of his father, bystanders and other neighbours in the locality. The disappeared person was engaged at the time of his disappearance and his would be in-laws waited for 4 years and gave full emotional and psychological support to the family but eventually got their daughter married off elsewhere. The testimonial of the Mr. Abdul Ahad reveals that the legal struggle is endless and bears no fruit. As he narrates: There was a complete denial on part of the detaining authorities of having taken my son. In addition, there was a denial to lodge an FIR. Instead, the police registered an FIR on the behest of the BSF against my disappeared son under anti-terror provisions, as well as under ‘attempt to kill’ provision of the Penal Code. The cases I filed against the disappearance of my son in the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and the Jammu and Kashmir’s State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) proved to be futile. Despite the High Court orders to release my son, the BSF did not honour the orders but instead claimed not to have detained my son at all and consequently, the whereabouts of my son remain unknown even after 24 years. I also filed a complaint at SHRC where the judge told me that it would be a futile exercise to pursue this case and advised to take ex-gratia relief and employment under SRO-43 instead. Nevertheless, I still hope and pray that one day my son will come home.
APDP has been consistently appealing to the international community to act as pressure groups upon the Indian state to take note of the situation and take corrective measures to render justice. APDP has also keenly followed and participated in the meetings of the UPR (Universal Periodic Review), under the auspices of the United Nations for implementing measures that would replace impunity by accountability and criminalize such acts perpetrated by the state in situations of armed conflict.
In commemoration of the day, APDP is releasing post-cards and the calendar for year 2016. The thinking that has gone into the making and design of these is to keep the memory of our loved ones alive.
“How can I spend my journey in the scorching sun?
Spread the shade of my beloved’s remembrance upon my head”