Kin of missing people shift protest from J&K to Capital
23 February 2007
New Delhi: 'Set up a time-bound Commission of Inquiry, end encounter killings' Human rights activists extend support to protesters.Unable to get justice in the Valley, families of 57 people who have gone missing from Kashmir after they were reportedly picked up by security forces, sought help from civil society groups in the Capital on Thursday to trace their loved ones. They demanded the setting up of a time-bound Commission of Inquiry to locate the missing persons, the immediate repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), an end to 'encounter' killings and the 'catch-and-kill' policy of the security forces. Missing files Pravina Ahangar, president of the Association of the Parents of the Disappeared Persons (APDP), said her son went missing 17 years ago after the security forces reportedly picked him up. The files in connection with the case went missing initially. The Government took no action against the three Army personnel who had arrested her son even after the High Court issued summons, she said. While Ms. Ahangar's personal tragedy inspired her to set up the Association, scores of others have been struggling to ascertain the fate of their kin without a response from the Government. 'We have come here to take the matter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi,' they said. 'The peace process and human rights violations cannot go together,' Yasin Malik, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief, said as the distraught family members narrated their stories. 'Extend scope of NHRC' Human rights activist Kuldip Nayar promised that he and Justice (retd.) Rajinder Sachar would set up a committee to probe incidents of human rights violations and make its report public. He also suggested that the scope of the National Human Rights Commission be extended to Jammu and Kashmir. Expressing support, Nirmala Deshpande, Gandhian, said she had spoken to several MPs who agreed to set up a panel to look into the issue. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of the hard-line faction of the Hurriyat Conference, also extended solidarity. 'Culture of impunity' The Jammu and Kashmir Government's policy of rewarding police and security personnel who furnished a better 'kill list' of terrorists encouraged such kidnappings, the protesters alleged. With the State being declared a 'Disturbed Area,' a culture of impunity was in place, they said. Quoting human rights activists, the Association said about 5,000 to 7,000 people were missing in the State. Thousands of habeas corpus petitions were pending before the J&K High Court. A group of displaced Kashmiri Pandits — under the banner Roots in Kashmir — also arrived to protest against the human rights violations by terrorists and governments both at the Centre and State.