By Dr. Khalid Rehman Hakeem
[I] am around seven thousand miles away from my home land, yet like any other son of the soil; my homeland is always surrounding my heart and soul. Parents, friends, relatives and all nears and dears. But how can I forget those who were snatched from their mothers and sisters, whose children are registered as orphans in some orphanage, whose wives were titled as half-widows. My tears run short of the supply, when I remember the pain of the mothers and innocent orphans of my homeland. When somebody talks about the beauties of my homeland, I feel happy, but my smiling faces suddenly turns into pale while, I think about those orphans whose smile has been kept under arrest the occupation forces.
The contemporary Kashmir narrative is incomplete without the citing of unattributed over 100,000 killed in the last twenty years of conflict. Also an unaccredited number of those who’ve disappeared: 10,000. This is the number of Kashmiris picked up, taken for interrogation, starved, beaten and tortured in the last two decades. Human right violation is at its peak in Kashmir. Draconian laws like The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) are implemented here. Even dogs and cows have more rights in India and Kashmir than humans. The State Government on Monday admitted that 2305 persons were missing in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989 when the turmoil broke out in the state.
But Human rights groups in the State claim more than “thousands” of Kashmiris have disappeared since 1990. While the APDP’s charge is that the majority of these ‘disappeared’ persons have been illegally killed by the security forces, the State says the missing numbers are mostly made up of young men who crossed the Line of Control to join militant groups. Nor is it clear why it has taken seven months to catalogue just two districts, that too incompletely. If APDP’s voice can reach Geneva, London, Dublin and New York, it can surely be heard in Tral, Anantnag and Shopian?
Recently, more than 2,000 corpses, believed to be victims of Kashmir‘s long-running insurgency, have been found buried in dozens of unmarked graves in the divided region, an Indian government human rights commission report has said. At 38 places visited in north Kashmir, there were 2,156 unidentified dead bodies buried in unmarked graves,” the inquiry found. Police originally described the bodies to villagers as “unidentified militants”. This claim is disputed by the report, local media said, which also calls for a forensic investigation involving DNA identification of remains. The APDP, which estimates around 10,000 people have gone missing in the past 20 years, says many may have ended up in these unmarked graves.
Family members of the disappeared persons in Kashmir have spent vast sums of money, time, resources and energy chasing the mirage of justice in India. The legal system has systematically failed to provide any justice to the victims. The AFSPA makes prosecution of armed forces by civilian courts impossible. Special sanction is required to proceed with investigations against them- so far no sanction has been granted. Court martial held in secret provide no opportunity for families to render their testimonies.
[pullquote]The Indian government has long been obdurate on the issue of Kashmir — preferring to blame Pakistan for provoking violence rather than address Kashmiris’ legitimate aspirations for self determination according to the wishes of Kashmiri people and investigate the crimes of its army.[/pullquote]The families of countless people all over the world who went missing in connection with armed conflict and other emergencies are enduring painful uncertainty as they remain without news of their loved ones. Every year The International Day of the Disappeared is celebrated on August 30 to draw attention to the fate of individuals imprisoned at places and under poor conditions unknown to their relatives and/or legal representatives. The impulse for the day came from the Latin American Federation of Associations for Relatives of Detained-Disappeared (Federación Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos, or FEDEFAM), a non-governmental organization founded in 1981 in Costa Rica as an association of local and regional groups actively working against secret imprisonment and forced disappearances in a number of Latin-American countries.
The Indian government has long been obdurate on the issue of Kashmir — preferring to blame Pakistan for provoking violence rather than address Kashmiris’ legitimate aspirations for self determination according to the wishes of Kashmiri people and investigate the crimes of its army. And almost a year and a half after the human rights commission issued its report on mass graves; the Indian state continues to remain apathetic to evidence of possible crimes against humanity. As a believer in a moral universe, I expected better. But it is an all too familiar pattern. Missing father, son, brother, husband, who cares!
Dr. Khalid Rehman Hakeem, is currently Post Doctoral Research Scientist at Universiti Putra, Malaysia. He is a regular contributor for newspapers in Jammu and Kashmir.