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Waiting in despair

The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) Kashmir has resumed its monthly sit in protest in Srinagar from March 25. Formed in mid nineties APDP blames the state for more than 8000 enforced disappearances and seeks information about the whereabouts of disappeared. Peerzada Arshad Hamid reports.

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Srinagar, Kashmir
April 07, 2006:

In July 2004 APDP members of the APDP gathered in Sher-e-Kashmir Municipal Park in Srinagar for a sit in protest against the enforced or involuntary disappearances in Jammu and Kashmir. It became a monthly affair since with the relatives of disappeared gathering on 25th of every month.

Wearing white head bands with names of disappeared written in black, the relatives come in the morning and sit in the park until afternoon. For some time the monthly sit in was suspended in 2005.

The monthly sit in was resumed on March 25 as the kin of disappeared gathered once again the Municipal park. Their aim is simple. They want to attract the attention of the government and the media to seek information about their loved ones, who have vanished, presumed dead or imprisoned without trial or record.

"Our demands, first the government should stop subjecting people to enforced disappearances and second it should investigate all these cases of disappearances. We come here to sit and protest to tell them we are fighting for our children. We don't need any compensation or ex-gratia relief. We just want information. If they are alive tell us, if not show us their graves." Says Parveena Ahanger, Chairperson of the APDP.

Parveena Ahanger, Chairperson APDP, left, sits in protest along with other members of APDP in Srinagar. Wearing headbands bearing names of disappeared kin and displaying their pictures APDP say they want information about the disappeared in Kashmir.
Parveena's son Javid Ahmad Ahanger was picked up by security forces on 18 August 1990 when he was just 16. She has since heard nothing from him.

APDP claims that more than 8,000 people have been subjected to enforced disappearances by the state in the last 16 years of conflict in Jammu and Kashmir.

Among the relatives gathered in Municipal Park is Fahmeeda, a widow from a remote village of Kupwara. Fahmida's husband was allegedly picked up by the security forces 14 years ago.

"If my husband is alive I want to see him," she begs.

"I want the authorities to let me know where he is. If he has been killed let them hand over his body to me". Fahmida adds.

Despite old age and poverty, mother of four Hajra Begum comes to Srinagar from her distant village every month to sit in protest along with other parents of the disappeared persons.

Members of the APDP in Kashmir gather at the municipal park in Srinagar. APDP blames the state for around 8000 disappeared in Kashmir.
Begum has finished mourning the death of her three sons, who she says were killed by the Indian army. But she still hopes for news about her fourth son, Bashir, who has been missing for 10 years.

"I still wait for him to come. I hope we will hear some news of him," she says.

An old lady from Kupwara who is still waiting to hear about his missing son said, "You come to gather news for your organisations, they come to see whether we may march on the road."

The latest figures released by APDP said 15 enforced or involuntary disappearances have been reported since Ghulam Nabi Azad took over the reigns of power four months ago. According to the patron of APDP, Pervez Imroz, 142 cases of enforced disappearances have taken place under the Mufti regime, who assumed office in 2002. The APDP asked the government to appoint a commission to probe the disappearances.

Last year APDP filed a petition in court against senior politician of the state Professor Bhim Singh, president of Jammu and Kashmir Panthers Party and a coalition partner in the state government.

A newspaper quoted him as saying that 4,000 of the disappeared were buried in Reasi Jail in Jammu and Kashmir.

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