Hamare khoye huye kahan hain (where are our missing ones) reads a banner at Koker Bazar in Lal Chowk. The photograph of a local youth Mohammad Saeed was pasted on bottom of the banner. Saeed is alleged to have been picked up by personnel of CRPF at Regal Chowk in 1990. His whereabouts are not known since then.
A group of youth, who raised the banner, shouted slogans demanding the disclosure of the whereabouts of the persons disappeared alleged in the custody of security forces in the past 17 years. They soon swelled into a big crowd and marched through Lal Chowk, Regal Chowk, Residency Road and other areas of the civil line in capital Srinagar on Saturday.
At a distance of just 80 yards, around 150 relatives of other "disappeared" persons had gathered at local hotel to press for the demand. These people have gathered under the banner of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP). There were heart-rending scenes as Gulshan Begum of Batamaloo narrated the woeful tale of her son Manzoor Ahmad Dar’s "custodial disappearance".
Mere beta ghar se kaam ke liye nikla. Jate waqt apne chote bhai se shaam ko chocolate lane ka waada kiya, saat saal guzre gaye, hum abhi oss ke aanay ka intizar kar rahe hien (my son went for work just in routine. He promised his younger brother that he would return in the evening with a chocolate for him. Seven years have passed since, he has not returned), she said sobbingly.
"If my son is a terrorist, lodge him jail for ever but tell me where is he? If he has been killed show me his grave," she demanded.
Shaheena Guru of Chanapora, sister of another disappeared person, demanded formation of an independent commission to probe the cases of "disappeared" persons. "We don’t trust the government. No probe sponsored by the government can be free and fair. Let a commission, acceptable to the relatives of disappeared persons, be formed to look into these cases," she said.
Ghulam Mohammad Bhat of Nowhatta personally visited the newspaper offices to tell the tale of his son’s forced disappearance. "Some plain-clothed persons picked up my son Mohammad Yaseen, outside a mosque at Jabgaripora on March 2, 2000 when he was coming out after offering night prayers. The same night security forces raided our house and searched Yaseen’s room. Since then we don’t know his whereabouts. We have searched him in every jail, police station, security camp but of no avail," he told the Hindustan Times.
The recent exposure of killing of five missing persons (civilians) in fake encounters at Ganderbal appears to have given the momentum to the relatives of missing persons to search for their dear ones. Many of them have apprehensions that the missing persons have been killed in staged-managed encounters. The State Human Rights Commission disposed off the case of one missing person Abdul Rasheed Parra of Larkipora Tangmarg presuming him to have been "done to death in custody".
There is no authentic record on the number of persons have disappeared in Kashmir since the inception of militancy in 1989-90. Government figures vary from 60 to 3744 to 1074. The APDP puts the figure around 10,000.
Chief Minister Ghulam Nabbi Azad told state assembly on Friday that all the cases of custodial killings and disappearances since 1990 would be probed.