Hajra, a mother of four sons has made it a mark to reach Srinagar on every 30th of the month to mark her protest with the Association of parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP). Among her four sons, three were killed by the Indian Army and one was taken along by the army and then he never returned.
“22 years have passed but so far I don’t know if my son is alive or he too is dead like his other brothers,” says Hajira while looking over the other members of the association. She alleges that her son, Bashir Ahmad Sofi was taken from his house in Bandipora by Army as they knew his other brothers have crossed the border.
In these 22 years Hajra says that she was once given permission to meet his son, but doesn’t remember the year, in an Army camp. “His condition was very bad; he barely walked to talk to me. That was the last I saw him and since them I am waiting for his return,” says Hajira but at the same time she consoles her heart saying “nothing is going to happen! If they would had been really interested in returning my son they would had in last 22 years. They (police) even didn’t file an FIR.”
Hajira is alone in her struggle as she says her husband passed away five years back and now she is living for her granddaughter, daughter of her eldest son. She is in class 10.
Today, on August 30 Hajira says this day is special as she is seeing more movement around; many people have assembled in the Pratap Park, where APDP organizes its monthly protests. Unaware about the International Day of Disappeared, Hajira says, “When I left today morning at 6am, my granddaughter was crying. I didn’t know why she was crying but once I reached the bus stop she murmured that I am wearing her chappal and she won’t be able to go to her school. We have only one chappal at home. I couldn’t do anything as I had to make my presence here.”
Like Hajira there are families of around 10,000 people whose loved ones have disappeared in the past 17 years of conflict, says the APDP member.
On the International day of disappeared many prominent faces like Mohammad Yasin Malik, JKLF chairman, some members of JKLF, Zareef Ahmad Zareef, Abdul Majid Zargar, Kashmiri rap singer Roshan Ilahi, appeared in the park to show their solidarity with the APDP members. Some lawyers were also present and some students who were busy in making poster and placards for these parents. All the members, guests were wearing black aprons.
The founder member of this association, Parveena Ahanger, whose son also disappeared in these 17 years, was today informing the other members and the guests about the ordeals of wives of the disappeared that how they are denied their right from the property of their husbands. “They can’t say if they are widows or they are not. Their children also don’t know if they are orphans or their father’s are still alive.”
Many guests who came in the park also signed a signature campaign with one line slogans in support of these parents. One had written ‘It is their right to know about their loved ones’, ‘Trace the disappeared’, ‘Disappearance a crime against humanity and India a big criminal’.
The International Day for Disappeared Persons is observed on August 30 across the globe. The APDP marks the day by observing a sit-in protest at Pratap Park where activists, volunteers, artists, poets, writers and family members of victims along with civil society activists come together to protest against enforced disappearances.
As per the statement of APDP has condemned and expressed grief over the recent incident of loss of human lives in Kishtwar and also the incident of killings of four persons in Gool Ramban. It also takes strong note and expresses concern over the disappearance of two persons in mysterious circumstances on 9th August 2013, in Kishtwar. The APDP stands in solidarity with their families and demands that the state authorities initiate speedy investigation into the case to find out the whereabouts of both the disappeared persons. The APDP will not tolerate any more disappearances, it reads.
As the case of Kunan-Poshpora incident stands reopened, the organization demands that a fair investigation be conducted into the case, investigation reports should also be made public and the victims should be given justice, reads the statement.
On occasion of the International Day for Disappeared Persons, the APDP demanded that India should implement the recommendations of Universal Periodic Review-2 (UPR2) and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance, beside repealing Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). it also demands that the state should institute an independent commission of inquiry into the complaints of enforced disappearances, extra judicial killings, torture, rapes and other human rights violations by state actors and provide a supportive environment to facilitate access to justice for human rights defenders. “The laws and policies should also be put in place to ensure protection of witnesses and those complaining against arbitrary state action,” says the chairman of the APDP.
The APDP also calls upon the state to comply with its obligations under international human rights laws and also provide adequate compensation to families of disappeared persons.