Among those who “vanished in thin air” in Kashmir since 1989, twelve people have fared on 2019 calendar of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP). After being subjected to enforced involuntary disappearance, these Kashmiri men were never seen again. In their longing, their parents became the battered campaigners who’re relentlessly seeking their whereabouts in Kashmir.
It was supposed to be a happy outing for an Old City boy away from his hometown’s regular tensions and siege-like conditions. But the day he chose to take a ride from the valley became his last memory for his parents — who would be soon drawn to number of torture centres and prisons, in and outside the valley, seeking his lost signs.
It was 27 October 1996. Kashmiris were observing it as the “black day” to commemorate the arrival of Indian army, airdropped in Kashmir, on 27 October 1947.
Oblivious of the day’s heightened “security alert”, eighteen-year-old Abid Hussain Dar of Narwara, Eidgah went to Jammu with his classmates on a school trip. He never returned.
At Kathua-Mandwal, Abid was cut short by the personnel of 15 JAKLI, the APDP says. “He was abducted and never to be seen again.”
His parents back home withered in his wait, and died awaiting his return.
Abid’s case is classic, when it comes to the inflicted doom on the parents and relatives of the disappeared parents of Kashmir.
To crystallise the memory of their “loved ones” against the concerted efforts of “imposing forgetfulness”, some of these parents along with their resilient captain Parveena Ahangar showed up in Srinagar’s Pratap Park on Tuesday to release the calendar portraying the 12 disappeared Kashmiris, in the age group between 18 and 35.
APDP has come up with these 12 profiles based on the information available in its archives and drawn from police FIRs, Judicial and State Human Rights Commission records and newspaper reports, to be included in the 2019 calendar.
The design of the calendar, and the illustrations, have been done by artist Suhail Naqshbandi.
Human Rights groups estimate that since 1989 about 8,000 to 10,000 people have been subjected to Enforced Involuntary Disappearance (EID) by the Indian security establishment in Jammu and Kashmir.
“EID constitutes a grave threat to the right to life and violates fundamental human rights,” APDP writes in the introduction to Calendar 2019. “… it is a torture for the family … who can neither mourn nor find peace or closure.”
The family of driver Abdul Rashid Wani has been suffering from the same state of perpetual and protracted mental trauma since 7 July 1997.
That day, their 32-year-old son from Kenhama Nowgam, Srinagar was abducted from fruit Mandi Bypass, Srinagar by the armed personal belonging to 218 Grenieders headed by Captain Yadav, the APDP says.
Three years later, the family finally managed to file an FIR in Police station Parimpora in 2000. Even as his family awaits his return, whereabouts of Rashid are still unknown.
“Enforced Disappearance creates terror and insecurity in the society, as its objective is to cripple dissent and paralyse resistance,” APDP says. “Although India is a signatory to the UN convention against EID, it is not codified as a distinct offense in Indian laws. There are no proper political or legal mechanisms in place to address this grave offense.”
To bring out the common sufferings of the parents of the disappeared persons, many verses of poets—local and international—have been written, alongside the short profiles.
In the beginning of one such profile, an endowed Kashmiri English poet, Ashraf Saraf writes:
The maple shadow of his absence blossoms.
one shall, then return to the ghostly cities
of ruin riding on hunchback
horses of fading memory to
ascertain what, in the rubble growth of
Among the calendar profiles, there’s a short description about Mohammad Saleem Bhat from Kullar, Pahalgam.
The 32-year-old daily wage labourer was abducted and subsequently disappeared by the personnel of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) stationed at Srigufwara, district Islamabad on 13 August 2001, his bio in the calendar reads. Despite filing an FIR, Saleem’s wife, son and daughter await his return.
“The testimonies of the families and the documentation of cases of disappeared persons in Jammu and Kashmir indicate that the practice of EID is widespread and systematic,” APDP says.
“It started almost immediately after the armed uprising in 1989 and is seen to be part of the state practice to terrorize people into submission and give up their demand for Azaadi/ self-determination.”
In the name of national security and state interest, the rights body says, the massive Indian security apparatus in the state has been operating in a climate of impunity backed by repressive legal provisions like The Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, The Public Safety Act, which grant legal immunity to armed forces against being held accountable.
Ghulam Nabi Bhat was one such person who suffered terrible fate in this system of impunity.
The twenty-year-old tailor was leading a commoner’s life in Kashmir, until on 8 June 1992, he was abducted from his Hawal Srinagar residence by Indian Army personnel belonging to 107 Battalion Border Security Forces (BSF) stationed at Bag-e-Ali Mardan Mills, in Srinagar, the APDP says.
He was never found.
It was two years after the tailor’s disappearance that APDP was formed in 1994, with the support of legal professionals and human rights activists, the families of the victims of EID in Jammu and Kashmir.
Over the years, APDP has become a movement – an important space for continuous engagement on issues of justice and accountability.
“Return our Children”, is a collective chant of the family members as they come out into public space demanding information about their disappeared loved ones.
APDP pledges that their struggle will continue till justice and accountability are restored. It urges individuals and organisations to know, understand, and join forces to demand an end to this grave offence and to bring the perpetrators to justice for the dignity of a civilised society.
“EID is not a problem which affects only the victims and their relatives, but it impacts all humanity,” the rights body says. “Being a repository of individual stories of loss and struggle, our movement is creating a collective biography of remembrance and resistance. The calendar is part of that endeavour; to commemorate the memory.”
One of the oldest disappeared profiles noted in the calendar is that of Mohammad Ashraf Sheikh of Drangbal Baramulla.
The 18-year-old was abducted from his home by the personnel of Indian Army belonging to Rashtriya Rifles camp stationed at Boniyar camp, Uri, the calendar description states: “The family went to the police station Baramulla to file an FIR but the police refused to file it.”
His mother awaits his return.
Similarly, on 16 November 2002, many eye-witnesses saw a farmer being abducted from his field at Larikpora, Khag of district Budgam. His name was Abdul Rasheed Parra.
The 30-year-old was abducted by army Rashtriya Rifles stationed in Khag camp, APDP says. Till this day, his wife and two children await his return.
To bring out the searing state of mind of the family members of the disappeared persons, the calendar carries Mahmoud Darwish’s poignant couplets:
Our words were a song
And I tried to sing, too,
But agony encircled the lips of spring.
And like the swallow, your words took wing,
The door of our home and the autumnal
To follow you wherever led by longing
Our mirrors were shattered,
And sorrow was multiplied a thousand fold.
For the day, yet again, Parveena Ahangar was living by these verses along with her battered tribe.
Standing tall amid bone-chilling cold inside Srinagar’s Pratap Park, she spoke the heart of her tormented yet resilient community: “Main Jab Tak Jiyienga, Ladta Rahe Ga” (As long as I’m alive, I will continue fight to seek the whereabouts of our disappeared sons.)
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