I’ve been following the debate about whether India’s Jammu & Kashmir government (called J&K or Kashmir interchangeably) will lift the draconian impunity legislation (called the AFSPA) for soldiers now in place over large swathes of Kashmir Valley.
The Indian Army, for its part, makes the rather astounding claim that if they are not allowed to continue to operate in the Kashmir Valley without impunity then Kashmir will secede. I often hear this type of stuff as well—oh if we don’t continue to abuse human rights with legal cover, then the terrorists win!
The irony is that opponents of lifting legal immunity are admitting that the security forces have been responsible for widespread human rights violations in the Kashmir Valley and that is the only way to keep Kashmir in India.
However, the truth about the last two decades of impunity in Kashmir is starting to slowly unravel especially with the recent discovery of possible victims of enforced disappearances dumped in mass graves.
In the last 22 years, armed forces personnel, militants and government sponsored militias (known as Ikhwanis) have been accused of disappearing people. They often wear clothing that makes it difficult to find out who perpetrated the crimes.
But, what we do know is that they disappeared and their silent cries are still heard in Kashmir.
On Human Rights Day, the Kashmiri human rights organization, the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) submitted to the J&K State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) 132 cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances of Banihal area of Ramban district (about 90 miles south of the Kashmiri capital of Srinagar).
That’s 132 cases in one area of one district in Jammu & Kashmir. But will anyone listen to their silent cries?
The submitted cases are of the people living in different villages of Banihal area, who have disappeared since 1989 under various circumstances. The APDP found that of the 132 cases, 24 were apparently perpetrated by militant groups, 22 were by either the Indian Army or the Jammu & Kashmir Police and the remaining ones are unknown.
In the 21 cases where the Indian army has been identified as involved, nobody has been prosecuted or held accountable.
The family members of the disappeared want to know whether their loved ones are dead or alive. If they are alive they want the government to say where they are. If they are dead, the families want the government to identify the graves of these persons.
We stand with the APDP in demanding that all those involved in this heinous crime of enforced disappearances should be prosecuted regardless of how powerful they are.
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