March 1999 News

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Scandal of the Kashmir Disappeared

2nd March 1999
BBC
By: South Asia analyst Alastair Lawson

Up to 800 people, including children, have disappeared.

The human rights group Amnesty International has issued a detailed report calling on the Indian government to end the plight of the disappeared and their families in Kashmir.

The report, entitled "If They Are Dead, Tell Us" says that up to 800 people have vanished while in the custody of the police or the security forces since the insurgency in Indian administered Kashmir began 10 years ago.

Amnesty International's 70-page report says that it is high time the Indian Government put an end to what it describes as the nightmare of disappearances in Kashmir.

Children among disappeared of particular concern, says the report, is the disappearance of children and juveniles. It cites numerous individual cases, including that of an eight-year-old who vanished after being arrested for throwing stones at a military vehicle.

Amnesty say that parents suffer enormous fear as they search for their dependants.

The report says the effects of the insurrection can have devastating consequences for Kashmiri children in other ways too.

It quotes a study carried out by a Kashmiri journalist that says that more than 10,000 children have been orphaned in Kashmir since 1990.

'India must uphold human rights'

The Amnesty report says the Indian security forces in Kashmir are confronted by separatist militants.

The human rights group says the militants have foreign backing to commit terrible abuses against the local population. But the report says that the Indian government has a duty to uphold and protect human rights in spite of these provocations.

The report says this is why most of the report focuses on human rights abuses, which it says have been carried out by India.

The Indian Government has yet to make an official statement, even though Amnesty says they have been presented with an advance copy. Disappeared from all walks of life The Amnesty report makes clear that children are by no means the only victims.

It says that among the list of the disappeared are businessmen, lawyers, labourers, and farmers. In many cases it says the only thing they have in common is the fact that they are ordinary civilians who have no connections with the militant groups that operate in Kashmir. Amnesty say that, so far, there has not been a single case in which those responsible for the disappearances have been convicted and sentenced.

It says that many people in Kashmir are bullied by the security forces into giving up their search for loved ones who have disappeared. The report says the families receive no help from the institutions supposed to support and protect them, such as the police, the courts and statutory human rights bodies.

Amnesty outlines programme Although the report says that fewer people disappeared in 1998 than in previous years, it concludes with a 14-point programme to prevent future disappearances.

The recommendations include better information about detentions and releases, improving the mechanism for locating and protecting prisoners and an end to secret detentions better access to prisoners by families and human rights groups the prosecution of those responsible for disappearances and compensation for those who have been wrongfully detained.

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