APDP stages protest against ‘enforced disappearances’ in Srinagar

Srinagar

The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) on Wednesday staged a protest demonstration in Press Colony Srinagar demanding justice and information about their disappeared family members.

Scores of the protestors assembled at press colony holding banners and placards and demanded to trace out their kith and kin who were subjected to enforced disappearances since 1989 in Kashmir.

A silent sit-in protest by relatives, families of disappeared people at press colony in Srinagar, KL image by Bilal Bahadur

The family members of disappeared youth, mostly females during their silent-sit in at Press Colony Srinagar castigated the successive governments for being biased towards their pain and agony.

“Neither National Conference nor PDP did anything for us to trace their missing loved ones,” said an elderly woman whose son according to her was picked by forces during a crackdown 25 years ago and since then she is waiting for her son.

Wearing white headbands with names of disappeared people and slogans like “stop disappearances.” the protestors proposed sit-in program to draw the attention of the government and the media to seek information about their loved ones, who have vanished, presumed dead or imprisoned without trial or any record.

Relatives of disappeared people hold sit-in protest in Srinagar, Kl Image by Bilal Bahadur

Over the past three decades, more than 8,000 persons have been subjected to enforced or involuntary disappearances, a spokesman of APDP said.

“132 people were subjected to enforced disappearance in Banihal, Government accepted 112 of them, but we want information about what happened to them.12 people had crossed the border, out of which 10 people surrendered and in army custody, their parents used to visit there and meet them. But later on, they too got disappeared. We demand justice and complete information about their whereabouts,”Tahira Begum, spokesperson of APDP said.

“The cases are pending in courts since long, we demand a speedy trial of the cases,” she added.

APDP once again calls on global civil society and the international human rights watchdogs that the phenomenon of enforced disappearance must end in Jammu and Kashmir and the perpetrators of disappearances must be brought to justice so that there will be way forward for providing truth, justice, and reparation to the thousands of victimized families.

APDP members seeking whereabouts of dear ones, KL image by Bilal Bahadur

There is surge again, says a member of the forum. “The practice of enforced disappearances in Kashmir, however, had seen a considerable decline during the last decade but since last year the practice seems to have resurfaced in Kashmir. Since last year, there has been a significant increase in the abduction of civilians who after forced disappearances are being killed extra-judicially.”

The APDP spokesperson in a statement said since last one week, APDP notes legal developments in three cases of enforced disappearances, which once again remind us that it is through the struggle for justice that the memory of the disappeared is preserved and the contradictions of the state exposed.

“First, on 26 February, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court began final arguments in the case relating to the disappearance of ten persons (mostly from North Kashmir) in custody of the armed forces and the Intelligence Bureau in December 2004. The disappeared were militants, who after surrendering before the state forces were trapped to work for the state and then were disappeared. Before their disappearance, the family members met their children on multiple occasions at army camps etc. Police have not filed first information report (FIR) and no investigations have been carried out. The High Court directed judicial inquiry confirmed the disappearances of ten persons and recommended investigations and compensation. The High Court part heard the case and arguments will continue on 29 March 2018.”

A long frame photo of relatives of missing Kashmiri youth participating in silent sit-in protest in Srinagar, KL image by Bilal Bahadur

“Second, on 27 February, the High Court directed a fresh status report to be filed within two weeks by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) investigating the case relating to the disappearance of five laborers from Poonch district who had come to Srinagar looking for work and then disappeared on 13 June 2005.  On 14 December 2017, the High Court directed for the constitution of a SIT and for completion of investigations within 60 days. While investigations have not been completed, the SIT in its status report to the High Court has identified the suspects in the case including the main accused who was working for the army. The SIT also enquired from the Station House Officers across the Kashmir valley on whether there had been any burial of “unknown persons together” after 13 June 2005.”

“Third, on 27 February, APDP filed its rejoinder before the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in the composite complaint regarding the disappearance of 132 persons from Banihal Tehsil of Ramban District by the state and non-state actors. The police and civil administration in their reply have admitted that 112 persons out of 132 persons were indeed “missing”. The SHRC directed for further response from the police and civil administration in the form of details of the inquiry conducted including whether the NOK’s (Next of Kin) of the disappeared had been examined. The case is next listed on 12 April 2018.”

The APDP spokesperson added that in all cases they have seen an inordinate lapse of time and thus far no fair and proper investigations have been carried out. The state institutions failed to support the victim families and the legal processes have been delayed and exhausting. Yet, the struggle of the families of disappeared has ensured that the truth has not been covered up or forgotten. The onus lies on the state to find the disappeared and investigate the role of the perpetrators responsible.”

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