Dag Media Jammu-Kashmir Correspondent Ajmer Alam Wanis interview with Mrs Parveena Ahangar

“Enforced disappearance: The war tactics used by Indian forces to
create fear and trauma in the psyche of Kashmiri people”


Foto: http://www.aljazeera.com

By Ajmer Alam Wani

“Our children were picked up in front of us by the Indian Security Forces, so there is no question of them settling across the border. In case the government feels so, they should come up with plausible explanations.”

“Firstly, the government should stop the war against people by revoking the draconian laws like AFSPA, PSA, DAA, etc., which provided unnecessary impunity to the perpetrator security forces. Secondly, the Government of India should ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. An international independent commission, preferably led by the United Nations, should be allowed to investigate the cases of enforced disappearances in Jammu & Kashmir.”

“Enforced disappearances are a war tactic used by the Indian State against the people of Kashmir to create fear and trauma in the psyche of Kashmiri people.”

This was alleged by Mrs Parveena Ahangar, Chairperson, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), while giving an exclusive interview to Ajmer Alam Wani-Editor-in-Chief of JK MONITOR (www.jkmonitor.org).

However, she admitted that both groups, security forces and militants, were responsible for the disappearances, but she believes that in most cases it is the action of the Indian Security Forces. She further mentioned that the disappeared people have been mostly picked up from their homes and residential areas in the Kashmir Valley. Adding that those disappeared were not necessarily involved with any militant activity. These were ordinary innocent citizens, she said.

The excerpts of the detailed interview are as follows:

When was this Association formed?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar: 
The Association was formed in 1994.

Who were the founders of this Association?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar: Myself, Habibullah Bhat, Mohammad Maqbool Shora, Mohammad Amin Shah, Ghulam Mohammad Bazaz, Mugal Massi, Mehraj-ud-din Bhat, AbdulAhad Khanday,  and all the family members of the victims of enforced disappearances.

What were the circumstances which compelled the formation of this Association?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar:At that time the enforced disappearances were happening everywhere across the Kashmir valley and the family members of these victims were searching for them wherever they could. While our search was on, we, the family members of the victims used to meet often, outside jails, interrogation centers, etc. Then we thought to work together, which compelled us to form the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP).

Who were the people who supported you in your struggle and cause?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar:Initially there were none, but now there are a number of people, from all walks of life, who support our cause and strengthen our movement against these human rights violations.

What was the outcome of your struggle so far?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar:Our struggle is on-going and will continue until we know the whereabouts of our dear ones.  Our struggle is being acknowledged internationally.

What are the major hindrances coming in the way of your work?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar: The draconian laws like AFSPA.

At what time did the disappearances first start in Kashmir and who was the first person, as per your records, to disappear, and who were the people behind it?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar:The disappearances started in the Kashmir valley along with the onset of the armed conflict two decades ago, although some cases were reported earlier as well.

There were two armed groups active during the 90’s, one was the armed forces and the other was militants groups, who among those two was more responsible for disappearances?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar:Although both groups were responsible for the disappearances, in most of the cases it is the Indian Security Forces.

How did these disappearances start, I mean how did people start disappearing?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar:The enforced disappearances started with the onset of the ongoing conflict in Kashmir in the early 1990’s. The Indian security forces used it as a strategy to suppress the people of Kashmir. In the early 90’s people, especially young men, were randomly picked up from their homes and workplaces during crackdowns and subject to enforced disappearances. It is a militaristic tactic which is still going on.

Had those people gone for armed training across the borders and since then disappeared?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar:The disappeared people have been mostly picked up from their homes and residential areas in the Kashmir Valley. Therefore, those disappeared are not necessarily involved with any militant activity. These were ordinary innocent citizens.

In figures, what is the total number of persons disappeared from across the Kashmir Valley?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar: We are presently in the process of documenting all the cases of enforced disappearances in the Kashmir valley, as well as the conflict affected areas in the Jammu region. It needs resources and manpower to reach the families of the victims of enforced disappearances, which we, unfortunately, don’t have.

The security forces used to monitor the movements of the local population very closely and kept a record of the residents of the localities; therefore the exact figures of these disappearances might be available to the security forces and the government agencies.

If not all, how many (in figures) among the disappeared, according to you, had joined the armed struggle against the Indian security forces?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar: We have some cases of militants who, after being arrested, have been subjected to enforced disappearances.

How many cases of disappearance are registered with the police stations?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar: The government should be having all these details. They are the ones who have been involved in the enforced disappearances and, ironically, they are the same people who register and investigate their cases. But in many cases, they refuse to register their cases or file an FIR- denying all forms of justice to the victims of enforced disappearances.

What do you think, where have those disappeared people gone?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar: Since they have been picked up alive in front of us, for us they are very much alive and in the custody of the state of India. The APDP has been demanding that the government should provide us the whereabouts of our beloved ones.

Do you believe that some of those disappeared might have settled across the borders in Pakistan or other countries around?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar: Our children were picked up in front of us by the Indian Security Forces, so there is no question of them settling across the border. In case the government feels so, they should come up with plausible explanations.

How many among the disappeared have come back, so far, if any, do you know where they had gone and how they came back?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar: There isn’t any such case we have come across to this date.

What according to you was the real cause behind the disappearances?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar:It is a war tactic used by the Indian State against the people of Kashmir to create fear and trauma in the psyche of the Kashmiri people.

Is any Govt agency or some other helping in tracing the details of those people?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar: No, there isn’t any. The government is just helping themselves by denying justice to the victim families.

What could be the best way to trace such people and which agency, do you think, can be effective in getting the details promptly?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar: Firstly, the government should stop the war against people by revoking the draconian laws like AFSPA, PSA, DAA, etc., which provided unnecessary impunity to the perpetrator security forces. Secondly, the Government of India should ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. An international independent commission, preferably led by the United Nations, should be allowed to investigate the cases of enforced disappearances in Jammu & Kashmir.

Do you think, the disappearances are still taking place?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar: Of course, the disappearances still do take place.

How have these disappearances affected the society in Kashmir and will these wounds ever be healed?
Mrs Parveena Ahangar: Enforced disappearances are a war phenomenon that leaves a scar in the memory and  lives of the people. The sudden arbitrary and violent disappearance of a family member, a son, a brother, a husband or a father, has social, economic and psychological repercussions on all the members of the family and the social structure of society.

-END-


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