In Search of Forcibly Disappeared persons
In Search of Forcibly Disappeared persons By-Muhammad Farooq Rehmani
United Nation believes that “enforced or involuntary disappearance is a growing phenomenon that plunges its victims and their families into a cruel nightmare that can last for years and leave them in total despair over the uncertainty of the fate and whereabouts of the victims, who are deprived of their basic human rights.”—“Alarmed at the growing member of citizens who disappeared in many countries, often with the full knowledge of their governments, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights established, in 1980, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. It was the first group setup to deal with specific violations of human rights in an issue-oriented manner.
“An important landmark in the United Nations consideration of this question was the adoption by the General Assembly of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, on 18 December 1992.”—The Declaration in Geneva affirmed that any act of enforced disappearances was “an offence to human dignity.” Its Article 2 declared “No state shall practice, permit or tolerate enforced disappearances.”
Unfortunately, yet the world at large looks indifferently at Kashmir and the plight of the inhabitants of the tormented and occupied zone, who are being forcibly disappeared, murdered, humiliated, molested, maimed and imprisoned under draconian laws for the last two decades, with impunity. There is a gulf of differences—between India and Kashmir, which never see eye to eye with each other on political and historical grounds. India is adamant to keep Kashmir under her illegal and unjust occupation and throws all mud on Pakistan for Kashmir crisis, although the inhabitants of Kashmir have their own political thinking and indigenous approach to Kashmir saga over the years. But since Kashmiris don’t have direct political access to world organizations and institutions, and Kashmir is looked upon as a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, Kashmiris do not get necessary space to promote their just political cause for their basic right –the right of self determination.
The horrible saga of Kashmiris has not yet ended, and Pakistan looks keen to resume bilateral talks with India, despite India’s failure to end human rights abuses in the conflict zone of Kashmir. However, India, Pakistan and Kashmiris need wisdom, compassion and determination to overcome hurdles in the way and to offer a charter of justice and dignity to Kashmiris, who need solid support to reshape their future peacefully, and in their own way.
On human sentiments of love, respect and dignity here is a lesson from a Russian story captioned. “Six decades on, Russia still searching for World War II dead.” The story written by Alissa Carbonnel from the valley, of glory(Russia) and published by Dawn, says, “Every spring when the ground thaws, searchers fan out across Russia’s vast swamps and forests armed with metal detectors, shovels and long metal probes, scouring bones.” The reporter continues, “Most are barely teenagers, their nails caked in the dirt of this valley west of Moscow, where up to 30,000 soldiers died before Adolf Hitler’s advancing Nazi army in 1941.” One searcher Nikdai krasikov, 23, standing thigh deep in muddy water and plunging for remains says,’ it’s our duty to find and bury our heroes with honour.’ “They say when you find a soldier, his soul is freed.”
The report further quotes, ‘’for us the war is not over until the last soldier is buried, said Vyasheslav Pirogov, 32, who has been digging for 11 years.’’ Giving more details of these searches for human remains of the Russian dead in World War II, the report says, “in the 64 years since world war II search squads, have recovered over 250,000 soldiers heaped in mass graves and still haunting Russia’s vast battlefields, according to Youri Smirnov, head of the Russian search squads, a non- govern mental group. He estimates that between 40,000 and 60,000 people across the country volunteer for search teams, who work nearly exclusively from private donations. Eulogizing the passion of the children for this tough search Vyasheslav Pirogov, a professor who leads his own scout group says, the saddest thing for me is that this work is being carried out by children. Adults don’t have any use for history, but children they need to live in the present.”
This report tells that the world war victory celebrations of great fanfare by Russia and a military parade across Red Square has no charm for searchers, saying “they know a better way to honour the nation’s defenders. There is patriotism in words and patriotism in action.”
As a Kashmiri, whose fellow countrymen have been forcibly disappeared in large numbers by army and police in Kashmir and along the cease-fire line, during the last twenty years, I was deeply moved by the patriotic zeal of Russian youth, working voluntarily as searchers of the remains of their killed soldiers across the country. In Jammu and Kashmir thousands of common people or freedom fighters were arrested, disappeared, killed in custody or fake encounters and latter thrown in ravines or dumped in far-flung uninhabited forests and mountains under unmarked graves or thrown to vultures and ravens in the last 20 years. The awful and inhuman practice is repeated every now and then, but the Government of India pays little heed to it.
In 2008, hundreds of unmarked graves and mass graves were unearthed by human rights activists in the LOC areas of the Indian occupied Kashmir, which shook the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, that some Indian intellectuals were moved to demand withdrawal of Indian army from Kashmir. But, the search campaign discontinued due to the threatening by army and police in Srinagar.
Notwithstanding fearful odds, in the way of these searches—forcibly disappeared Kashmiris, can never be forgotten. No doubt, there are many people who wander from pillar to post in search of their near and dear ones; volunteers with passion who have dedicated their lives to the search of the forcibly disappeared sons of the soil, but it is our moral obligation to become involved as Kashmiris in unraveling truth and mystery behind these horrible acts committed by wolves with human faces. This should become a mission above politics. Voluntary groups of human rights activists have been pursuing for long the noble mission but the need of the hour is to pay more attention to the field of search and discovery of our disappeared countrymen by institutionalizing the search campaign of enforced disappearances. This is the scientific way to discover many more unmarked graves and reach to the door- step of the perpetrator or perpetrators of the crimes against humanity. If American empire can launch a long war against Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan etc to take revenge of 9/11 massacre, why can’t we carry out a peaceful campaign to bring to justice the state- sponsored terrorists and discover unmarked graves to the satisfaction of the tormented and depressed families.
It should not be ignored that India has launched a long- time aggression against Kashmiris to eliminate their youth by custodial killings and enforced disappearances. But it has failed. And indeed Kashmiris will not rest unless the killers are made answerable before the public and brought to justice.
In April 2008 Amnesty International had urged the Government of India to launch urgent investigations—independent, impartial, and in line with international standards, into hundreds of unidentified graves discovered since 2006 in Jammu and Kashmir. The Amnesty believed the grave sites to contain the remains of victims of unlawful killings, and enforced disappearances, torture and other abuses which occurred in the context of armed conflict persisting in the state since 1989. The graves of at least 940 persons had reportedly been found in 18 villages in Uri District alone. But India did nothing to respect the call of international community and human rights organizations. Therefore, peace is still a mirage in the region, and the world must take note of the vulnerability of the problem and India’s intransigence must not grow and expand further in Kashmir to jeopardize peace. End
Note: The writer is Convener All Parties Hurriyet Conference AJK and Chairman J&K People’s Freedom League.