Remembering Kashmir’s Disappeared

Anguished families demand whereabouts of their dear ones
Remembering Kashmir’s Disappeared

IRFAN RASHID

Srinagar:

 Family members of Abdullah assembled in Pratap Park on Saturday—a one more gathering day. Besides, family of disappeared Abdullah, there are hundreds of other families whose sons, fathers, husbands or brothers have been missing from last over two decades.
Zooni, half-widow of Abdullah; Yusuf, son of Zooni and Abdullah; Fareeda, wife of Yusuf; Saliq and Saqib, kids of Yusuf and Fareeda.
Though his real name is Muhammad Yusuf Dar but he is only known with his pseudonym “Pintu”.  He has arrived along with his wife, ailing mother, and two sons to ask for whereabouts of his missing father.
After eating pre-dawn meals of fasting in a friend’s house, Abdullah leaves for the Masjid along with his other friend, Ghulam, on 20 March 1992. A day earlier Abdullah had asked his family he was visiting “new colony” to spend a night there.
After the two friends completed their fajr prayers, they began walking towards Simthan Bijebera, their own village. Just reaching on outskirts of the outgoing village, army had clamped a crackdown, a regular practice in 1990s in Kashmir.
Abdullah was caught and thrown in army vehicle but Ghulam somehow managed to escape, though family of former accused latter even mentioned him (Ghulam) in FIR. Few villagers have been witness to the event. An old lady had revealed to Pintu she noticed one man wrapped in a black blanket being carried by army vehicle.
The next day, all villagers headed by Muhammad Ramzan Lone, Muqdamm (Head) of the village approached army officer stationed on highway near Eidgah.
 “That army officer told Muqdamm in Urdu, Yes we have taken him and even revealed his dress but forced one condition,” Pintu recalls after a tough effort, as he was that time only a 6 year old kid. Now, the 30-year-old Pintu is short and stocky.
He added: “RR (Rashtiya Rifles) officer forced the condition of bringing Ghulam (the other friend who escaped) to him and then he would give my father either living or dead.”
Next we approached Deputy Commissioner’s Office and Superintendent of Police’s office in Dak Bungalow Anantnag and they replied “our investigation is going on”.
After completion of one year of disappearance of my father, both army as well civil administration denied having whereabouts of Abdullah.
The only way forward for the grief-ridden family was what brother of Zooni did. The family had 25 Kanals of agri-land, out of that Pintu’s maternal uncle Bashir sold 20 Kanals against Rs 20, 000. This money his uncle spent in searching every nook and corner of the state; all police stations, all army camps, all suspected places—even Tihar jail.
Zooni is very soft-spoken woman ageing above 50. Her eye bags sag and unibrows twists when she speaks, first indistinctly and then friendly.  With every spoken sentence, crease on her face tightens. Her eyes shift from ground to small gathering and back. A person listening her needs words need not be Kashmiri language knowing as her tone conveys everything.
 “Gobra bea kya wanai tche…meh chu basaan dunya dazaan (This world seems burning to me),” Zooni said.
A report published by the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK) in 2009, reported the number to be “8,000 plus”.
“One day, they say it is 3,931 people missing, the next day it is 3,749 … they are not serious about it,” says Parvez Imroz, a human rights activist and co-founder of the original Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP).
In late March 2011, Amnesty International (AI) released a report claiming that the “state of Jammu and Kashmir was holding hundreds of people without charge or trial in order to keep them out of circulation”. AI alleges that a contentious Public Safety Act (PSA) allows security forces to detain individuals when the state has insufficient evidence for a trial.
Through this law, AI says that between 8,000 and 20,000 people have been detained over the past two decades, with 322 people held between January and September 2010.
In late 2010, a US cable released by whistleblower website WikiLeaks reported that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had briefed US diplomats on widespread torture in Indian jails in Kashmir and their frustration with the Indian government’s failure to address their concerns.
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