International Day of the Disappeared: World silent, India ignorant about Kashmir

"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."
“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.”
 “In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.” -Bertolt Brecht (German poet, 1898-1956)
Today, on the International Day of the Disappeared, APDP observes with concern the present focus of the international community, and more particularly the German Government, in Jammu and Kashmir.

The German Embassy, in collaboration with the Indian Government, is organizing a musical concert by Zubin Mehta in Srinagar on 7 September 2013. An event such as this one, sponsored by the State, devoid of any connection to the realities of Jammu and Kashmir, is most unfortunate. The international community has been expected to take the side of truth and justice. In 2008, the European Parliament passed a resolution to do just that. The resolution recognized the presence of unidentified graves, condemned human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, urged legislative reform that would assist investigations and prosecutions of crimes, urged the Indian State to ensure independent and impartial investigations of graves, and called on the European Commission to offer financial and technical support to the Indian Government in this regard. It is condemnable that the German Government does not choose to question the Indian State on its human rights violations or its complete disregard for the 2008 European Parliament resolution. Further, how does the German Government understand its own responsibility in Jammu and Kashmir? While the German Government appears to be comfortable being used by the Indian State for furthering the Statist narratives of “peace” and “normalcy” in Jammu and Kashmir, the German Government must be held accountable to its role in urging the Indian State for ending impunity in Jammu and Kashmir. In March 2013, the report, alleged Perpetrators, by the International Peoples’ Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir (IPTK) / APDP, was submitted to European Union and German Embassy representatives in New Delhi. What steps have been taken by the German Government in pressuring the Indian State to investigate and prosecute the 500 named alleged perpetrators of the State forces? APDP reminds the German Government of its responsibility to protect [an internationally recognized principle] and promote human rights.

Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally recognized dispute, an occupation and armed conflict. Since the inception of the armed conflict in 1989, Government of India has put into service more than 7, 00,000 armed forces including army, paramilitary forces, police and other sponsored agencies. The armed conflict has resulted in the killing of 70,000+, countless cases of torture and rape, 8000+ enforced disappearances. Besides this, illegal detentions, forced labor, property damage, and other forms of human rights violations remain a common practice in Jammu and Kashmir. In addition, APDP has documented 7000+ unknown, unmarked and mass graves which still await investigation and so far the government is reluctant to conduct any comprehensive forensic examination of these graves.

The story of enforced disappearances in Jammu and Kashmir is one of victims disappeared, and survivors that have been left behind – 1500+ “half-widows” and their children – with daily existential questions relating to health, finances, employment and the challenge of not forgetting while at the same time being forced to live in the present. In addition to the victims, and their immediate family, there are countless relatives that live with the pain of loss, hope for the return of their loved ones, and the struggle for justice.

The response of the Indian State to this struggle for justice has been abysmal. Basic demands of investigations or inquiries have been ignored. In other countries across the world, Governments have set up Commissions to inquire into the phenomenon of disappearances. In Jammu and Kashmir, no such Commission has been set up, and instead the strategy has been to ignore or seek to discredit claims of disappearance. The families of the disappeared are forced to engage with allegations relating to the “innocence” of the disappeared. A common refrain by the State has been to claim that the disappeared have crossed the Line of Control for arms training. The phenomenon of enforced disappearances is a part of the institutionalized, systemic and systematic violence of the State. The judiciary, executive and the legislature have all chosen to side with impunity. The International Convention against Enforced Disappearances has not been ratified by India and enforced disappearance has not been legislated as a crime. The judiciary, while proactive on certain issues, is reluctant to take on the State in matters relating to Jammu and Kashmir and human rights. There is an institutional will to ensure impunity that has resulted in no prosecutions of the army, paramilitary and police for human rights violations. The Government of Jammu and Kashmir has officially confirmed that no sanction for prosecution has been granted under the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990, in 23 years. Instead of bringing perpetrators to justice, the State continues to award and promote them. In the infamous triple murder case of 1999 in which three civilians were killed in custody subsequent to their disappearance, the perpetrator identified as Abdul Rashid Khan (Rashid Billa) remained absconding for numerous years and has now reportedly resurfaced, and been reinstated and promoted. In December 2012, the report “alleged Perpetrators” analyzed 214 cases, including cases of enforced disappearances, and listed 500 alleged perpetrators of the State. None of these 500 persons have been prosecuted to date.

It is in this context that APDP has consistently appealed the international community to question, and exert pressure, upon the Indian State to uphold the internationally recognized human rights principles and standards. As the struggle for truth, justice, dignity and honor continues, the international community must be aware that their actions today form a part of the historical record. There will be accountability. The international community cannot escape their responsibility to the victims of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir. We call on the international community to urge the Government of India to: allow the United Nations Special Rapporteur on enforced or involuntary disappearances to visit Jammu and Kashmir, and to ratify the Convention against Enforced Disappearances. Most importantly, the international community must be guided in their relations with the Indian State by a sense of responsibility and sensitivity to the realities of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

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