Unhealed Wounds

Human rights groups working in Jammu and Kashmir put the number of enforced disappearances the conflict-torn region has witnessed between 1989 and 2012 at above 8000, with an exhaustive and painstaking report by the International People’s Tribunal For Human Rights and Justice In Kashmir (IPTK) and the Association of the Parents Of Disappeared Persons (APDP) detailing 214 such cases along with the identities of forces personnel and others alleged to be involved in the crimes. Successive state governments have tied themselves into knots in trying to diminish the gravity of the issue by contradictory and conflicting statements about the actual numbers of victims and their fate, going to ludicrous lengths to insist that the missing youth who, in the authorities’ view do not exceed a few hundred, could be camping in the other part of Kashmir. The ITPK-APDP report, titled Alleged Perpetrators: Stories of Impunity In Jammu and Kashmir, released in December 2012, lists 500 individual perpetrators from the army, the paramilitary forces, and the state police, which include officers of ranks ranging from Major Generals and Brigadiers in the Indian Army to a former and the then serving chief of the state police.

The magnitude of involvement in just over 200 of the 8000-plus cases speaks of a considered policy to use enforced disappearances as a component of anti-militancy operations in Kashmir, and has been borne out by consistent refusal by the Indian state to even acknowledge the evidence brought to its notice. The ‘cases’ often pertain to youth picked up in the dead of the night from the homes, or whisked away from the street and bundled into waiting forces vehicles, never to be seen again by their families. Parents of hundreds of such victims have faced psychological and financial ruin in establishing the trail of their missing sons or visiting jails and interrogation centres in their search, only to come up against dead ends.

Many families, as regularly reported in the Srinagar press, are also known to have been initially assured of their wards’ release within a few hours or days by commanders of forces camps, but sent back empty-handed later, with the same officers and camps brazenly denying to have picked their sons up. Rampant across much of the state, the systematic and ruthless practice has left thousands of families bereft and numb, unable either to trace their loved ones or get authorities to divulge the truth about their fate. The governments in New Delhi and Srinagar have been unmoved by the evidence put together piece by piece by HR activists and others, and accounts of the suffering families themselves, and taken no step to come out with facts, not to speak of bringing the perpetrators to book. The families have been left with wounds that will not close.