SRINAGAR: For the first time, International Day of Disappeared (August 30) was not observed in Kashmir Valley. Despite the lifting of curfew from most parts of Srinagar, restrictions imposed by the government have prevented the annual gathering of families of disappeared persons in city centre Lal Chowk.
As an annual ritual, families of persons who have disappeared, mostly after being picked up by army or paramilitary troops, used to gather at Lal Chowk and seminars were held under the aegis of both factions of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), one faction led by Parveena Ahangar and the other by Parvez Imroz. The gathered families would display identity cards and photos of the disappeared persons to keep demanding information of their whereabouts and to express the sense of limbo they have left behind. The International Day of Disappeared was an occasion in Kashmir to bring people together and let them share experiences of their endless search for loved ones.
At times a display of paintings and art performances depicting enforced disappearances were also performed.
“Today we could not organise any programme. It was impossible for the victims to come from far-flung areas because of the restrictions. Even families from Srinagar could not be brought together. In this situation I decided to hold a demonstration alone but was unable to do so because of the restrictions,” said Parveena Ahangar, a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.
According to the APDP, about 8,000 people have disappeared in Kashmir since the 1990s, most of them picked up by the Indian army. In 2011, a state human rights commission inquiry revealed that bodies of hundreds of men described as unidentified militants were buried in unmarked graves at 38 places in north Kashmir. Of the more than 2,000 bodies, the report said, 574 were identified as those of local residents. There is every possibility that the unidentified bodies buried in various unmarked graves may be those of the disappeared persons.