On 19th October 2000, Mushtaq Ahmed, a resident of Dugru Village, Budgam District Jammu and Kashmir was called by the army for an investigation. His body was found on a nearby street 3 days later.
For many Kashmiris, such deaths and disappearances are routine. It has been one of the longest running emergencies in the world and yet it is one that gets a fraction of the media attention it deserves.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act has been imposed on Kashmir since 1990. This Act gives complete immunity to soldiers and paramilitaries unless a trial is ordered by the defence ministry. The Act has been repeatedly used to carry out fake encounters on innocent people by army personnel. Often these become grounds for promotion.
The 21 year long insurgency has left over 70,000 dead and 8,000 have disappeared while in prison. A toll even greater than under Chile’s dictator, Pinochet.
Kashmiris have demanded a separate state from India ever since independence in 1947. The sentiment remains.
“The Indian government’s actions do not inspire any confidence in the people here. You can bring in the military and keep it here, you can silence the people, muzzle the press.but you can’t remove the desire for a separate state from those who want it” says Community Correpspondent Sajad Rasool.
“India is a democracy right? How on earth is it possible to have laws like AFSPA? People can’t live in fear like this”, he continues.
For Mushtaq Ahmed’s life carries on. The pain of the loss and the fear of losing other dear ones remains. But perhaps their loss could be avenged by the removal of the Act which will allow the next generation to live without the fear of being silenced and prosecuted.