Missing Persons of Kashmir

Thousands of disappearances in Kashmir leave families broken. In today’s India Unheard video, our Community Correspondent from Kashmir Sajad Rasool tells us about the case of missing people in his state of Jammu and Kashmir. “Since the insurgency began in the 1980’s,” he says, “local people started going missing. By now, it is estimated that the total number of people missing in Jammu and Kashmir amounts to over 10,000.” It is widely believed among the general public of Kashmir that the Indian Army has played a significant role in these disappearances. In the ‘80’s and ‘90’s it was a common practice of the army to gather a large group of civilians and pick out a few on the pretext of investigation. These individuals never returned to their families. The State Human Rights Watch also reported that many disappearances took place during fake encounters staged by the Indian forces, who claimed that those killed were militants. Mass graves have been unearthed in various towns and villages in Kashmir. In 2009, the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian Administered Kashmir released a press note on their investigations of these mass graves, and their results were shocking. 2,373 of these graves were unnamed, and over 170 contained more than one body. The highest number of cadavers found in a single grave was 17. The Indian Armed Forces claim that these mass graves hold bodies of foreign militants and terrorists killed in encounters. However, reports from other sources suggest that not all the bodies are those of insurgents. Many of these encounters were in fact faked, and a significant number of the victims were innocent civilians. “When one’s loved one is killed, it is a terrible experience. But there is finality to it. When someone goes missing, however, their family is caught in a crossroads between hope and despair.” Cases of missing people have dramatically reduced over the past 7 years, but those who disappeared left behind families in anguish. Many of these men were the sole breadwinners of the household. Many families of missing persons have been scared to file reports against suspects. If they do so, they are in grave danger of losing their own lives. However, the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons was founded in 1994, and since then it has played a large role in mobilizing people for their fight for justice. The APDP regularly organizes rallies and protests, creating and spreading awareness around the world about the horrors that Kashmir has seen. It has also provided a strong support system for missing persons’ families. “Although thousands all over Kashmir have been affected by this, there hasn’t been enough coverage of the issue by mainstream media. Local channels are quick to report such news,” says Sajad, “but national channels don’t seem to find this topic relevant. This video is a small initiative on my part to get the ball rolling. More people must get to know of this injustice.” For more information, visit http://kashmirprocess.org   -Rajyashri Goody

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