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International Human Rights Day: Kashmir victims bring conflict's pain to the fore

From seeking justice for alleged rape victims, to children waiting for parents who have disappeared, to custodial deaths - the dark side of the two-decade Kashmir conflict came to the fore on International Human Rights Day on Tuesday.

india Updated: Dec 10, 2013 18:58 IST
Peerzada Ashiq

From seeking justice for alleged rape victims, to children waiting for parents who have disappeared, to custodial deaths - the dark side of the two-decade Kashmir conflict came to the fore on International Human Rights Day on Tuesday.


On Tuesday, Kashmir's summer capital was witness to seminars, marches, rallies and several attempts by separatists to reach the United Nations office to, as the participants called it, "remind the world about the pain and suffering of the ongoing conflict that remains unattended to".

"For the people of Jammu and Kashmir, all declarations of the United Nations are hallow and meaningless. Be it the right of self determination, right to life or right to liberty and security, every right is denied to them," wrote moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in a letter to the UN.

"From the UN, we expect that our right to be heard will be recognised and we too will be counted as a people among the 'peoples of the world'," he added.

Another moderate separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah made an unsuccessful attempt to reach the UN office here. The Democratic Freedom Party chairman was detained immediately after he left his office with a memorandum.

Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik also organised a march in the evening. JKLF faction chairman Javeed Mir was arrested while attempting to hold a rally in the old city.

The authorities, since Monday night, rounded up several separatist leaders in a bid to stop rallies on the occasion.

Several victims of the two-decade conflict organised sit-ins to highlight human rights issues.

"It is difficult to recall what happened that day. More than two decades have passed, but justice still eludes us," said an alleged mass rape victim from north Kashmir's Kunan Poshpora village.

The village garnered international headlines in 1991, when around two dozen women had alleged that they were raped by security forces.

Several victims whose husbands disappeared without a trace took to the city's parks to remind the government to "declare them either dead or help know their whereabouts".

While the human rights issues have always been separatists' domain, legislator and Awami Ittihaad Party chief Engineer Rashid also carried out a march in the city.

"We demand that capital punishment be abolished in the whole world. Time has proved that hanging of (Parliament attack convict) Afzal Guru or anybody else in the world has not been able to solve the problem anywhere," said Rashid.

Rashid pressed for talks with militants groups to end the Kashmir problem. Ironically, the mainstream party raised pro-freedom slogans like "Hum kya chaahate! Azaadi," (we want freedom!).

Kashmir, where the armed conflict started in 1989, has seen tens of thousands of civilians, militants and security men dead. While separatists claim the conflict has consumed around one lakh lives, officials put the number of dead at around 40,000. Human rights activists claim that around 10,000 people still remain untraced in the Valley.

Civil society groups also organised meetings, demanding justice for victims of massacres. Kashmir Doctors' Association president Dr Nisar ul Hassan claimed the "the victims of several massacres do not have food to eat, clothes to wear and shelter to live in".

Human rights abuse continues to be a major challenge for the ruling parties, who have instituted several inquiries, probes and commissions to bring justice to the victims.