The International Day of the Disappeared, on August 30 of each year, is a day created 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.
The APDP(JK) an organization was started in 1995 by ParveenaAhanger, to provide support and mobilize family members of missing persons due to enforced disappearances to put pressure on government to investigate the estimated 8000-10,000 cases of enforced disappearances in Kashmir.
ParveenaAhanger (born in Srinagar, Jammu Kashmir) is the Founder and Chairperson of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in Jammu Kashmir. She won the Rafto Prize(The Professor ThorolfRafto Memorial Prize (Raftoprisen) is a human rights award established in the memory of the Norwegian human rights activist, ThorolfRafto.) for Human Rights in 2017 for her “protests against enforced disappearances” and for demanding justice for victims of violence in Jammu Kashmir.
She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. ParveenaAhanger is also referred to as the “Iron Lady of Kashmir.”She was nominated by the prestigious Indian media Channel CNN IBN for a coveted award which she rejected on account of the deceit approach adopted by Indian media over the pain and tragedies of Kashmiris.
Human rights violation and abuses in Kashmir is an ongoing issue. The abuses range from mass killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual abuse to political repression and suppression of freedom of speech.
The government forces have been accused and held accountable for committing severe human rights abuses against the civilians’ population. Thousands of Kashmiris have been reported to be killed by the government forces in custody, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances and these human right violations are said to be carried out by the government forces under total impunity.
Civilians including women and children have been killed in “reprisal” attacks by the government forces. International NGOs, as well as the US State Department, have documented human rights abuses including disappearances, torture and arbitrary executions carried out during the anti-militancy operations.
The government forces have been implicated in many reports for enforced disappearances of thousands of Kashmiris whereas the government forces deny having their information and/or custody. This is often in association with torture or extrajudicial killing.
The extent of male disappearances has been so large that a new term “half-widows” has been coined for their wives who end up with no information of their husbands' whereabouts.
Human right activists estimate the number of disappeared to be over eight thousand, last seen in government detention. The disappeared are believed to be dumped in thousands of mass graves across Kashmir.
In 2008, EU passed a resolution against unmarked and mass graves in Kashmir. In 2011, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), a government body, recommended for a comprehensive forensic examination into all the unmarked and mass graves in Jammu Kashmir.
Hundreds of civilians including women and children have reportedly been extrajudicial executed by the government forces and the killings are concealed as fake encounters.
Despite government denial, the security officials have reportedly confessed to Human Rights Watch of the widespread occurrence of fake encounters and its encouragement for awards and promotions.
According to a BBC interview with an anonymous security person, 'fake encounter' killings are those in which security personnel kill someone in cold blood while claiming that the casualty occurred in a gun battle. It also asserts that the security personnel are Kashmiris and “even surrendered militants.”
In 2010, three men were reported missing proceeding these missing reports three men claimed to be militants were killed in a staged gun battle the army also claimed they had found Pakistani currency among the dead. The major was subsequently suspended and a senior soldier transferred from his post.
In 2011, a Special Police Officer and an Army man were charged by the Kashmir police for the murder of a civilian whom the duo had killed in an encounter claiming that he was a top Lashkar-e-Taiba militant.
The Association of Parents of Disappeared (APDP) on Saturday (01/09/2018) commemorated the International Day of the Disappeared and urged upon the SHRC to move to High Court for implementation of its recommendations on unmarked and mass graves.
On the occasion of the International Day of Disappeared, APDP appealed SHRC to take its own investigations and recommendations regarding unmarked and mass graves to the logical conclusion by litigating the matter before the JK High Court for implementation.
Families of the disappeared have neither been able to get emotional closure nor the legal closure. Therefore, due to the nature of the continuing crime, it is incumbent on SHRC to play a role in accordance with its mandate and responsibility towards the victims of state violence.
Association of Parents of Disappeared (APDP) also appeals United Nations Office of High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) that during its forthcoming sessions, OHCHR in relation to its recent human rights report on Kashmir, must remind the UN Human Rights Council to consider establishing a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into all the allegations of human rights violations including enforced disappearance in Jammu Kashmir.
Moreover, OHCHR must urge the Indian state on securing all unmarked grave sites and carry out comprehensive investigations by impartial forensic experts in line with the UN Model Protocol on the disinterment and analysis of skeletal remains.
Further, the government of India must be urged to ratify International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, legislate against the crime of enforced disappearances and provide truth, justice and reparations to all the victims of enforced disappearances.
Author works at National Industries Company,Kuwait