What do we do in the rest of India, when someone we know disappears? We go to the police, publish pictorial advertisements in the news dailies, and hope for their return? Why? Because for us, disappearance is scary, sudden, and not something that usually happens to us. But, disappearance is not ‘disappearance’ for the people of Kashmir because that has become a part and parcel of their lives. They wake up in the morning and go out. Some come back, some do not. Those who do not, they disappear. They wake up in the morning and do not go out. But still, some disappear. Kashmir has become Bermuda Triangle for many, with a few Houdini’s performing the ‘Act of Disappearance’ on them everyday.
The families search and search and search for days, months, and years. Yes, they go to the police, and some even spend behind pictorial advertisements. But, do they hope like we do for the return of the disappeared? Many do not, not anymore. A few ‘lucky’ families find their loved ones rotting in the Jhelum, and a few find them in the morgue, or in the police stations. For the rest, the search is for the lifetime. Many families eventually perform the last rites, like the family of Manzoor Ahmad Dar, who has been ‘missing’ for 14 years. 14 years is believed to be enough to consider the ‘missing’ as ‘dead’. Ironical, was Dar not dead right from the moment he disappeared? 14 years had only put the seal on it with a thud: ‘DEAD’.
India-administered Kashmir it is called, and India is the world’s largest democracy.
What is the wife of a disappeared man called? She is a ‘half widow’, the ‘adhi-bewa’. What are the children then? Half orphans? The question is not whether every man in Kashmir is a part or the supporter of the Mujaheedin. The question is not whether these men are ‘anti-nationals’. The question is, what about their basic human rights, their citizenship rights? Such arrests, detains, and disappearances are not legal, are they?Their is something called the Right to Protest. If the question is on the venues of protests, why does not the government ‘allot’ a venue like the Delhite protestors have – the Jantar Mantar, in Kashmir to protest? The question is on the credibility of the dubious state of law. The question is how can the largest democracy of the world practice human rights violation everyday? What happens in the ‘No More PAPA Houses’ is another story, another time although.
Till 2013, over 8000 men had disappeared. This is 2016.
Who is a missing person? Someone whose status of existence is not known. A missing person can be alive, he can be dead too. Or worse, a missing person can be ‘found’ somewhere between being dead and alive – mutilated, battered, immobile; often blind, and/or deaf, and/or with a torn tongue. What has Kashmir become, a militarized war zone? And what are these ‘disappeared’ Kashmiris, collateral damages? The ratio between Kashmiri civilian to Security Personnel is 1:7, and they are posted on the land of ‘India-administered Kashmir’ to ensure peace and safety. Terms are being redefined, are they?
Yes, it was a freedom movement, a movement for self-determination that turned into an armed struggle. Cross firings has caused collateral damages for ‘both sides’. Civilians, non-participants, government employees, security personnel, protesters… they count is endless. But, why the ‘both sides’? And, is the demand for self-determination a crime? How can protests be silenced with disappearances? Piles and piles of files with pictures attached with safety-pins lie on the floors of the police stations of Kashmir, and homes of every Kashmiri. The ‘half-widows’ pin the pictures of their loved ones on their clothes. That at least makes them feel close to the beloved who has disappeared, perhaps forever. Thousands of eyes scan the faces of millions in Kashmir, to find their disappeared one. Futile hopes, mostly. When is this going to stop, when the thousands of searching eyes turn into millions?