By Ather Zia (Originally posted on SAMAR)

In not so recent past most Kashmiri women shared two notable traits. They did not like to buy meat from the butcher and at no cost would they make their grief public. The butcher’s shop was a shunned site maybe because it typified exposure to uncouth, aggressive and bloody masculinity. As for grief, it was a private affair. The emotions around bereavement were especially kept discrete. Families liberally shared their pain with each other and friends, but the mourning was limited to the four walls of the home. This is what was socially expected. In 1989 as the armed insurgency began; enforced disappearances of men became part of the Indian policy. Kashmiri women, mostly mothers and wives, overstepped all traditions and spilled into the streets, making explicit their grief for the men who “disappeared” in the custody of Indian armed forces. The women initially connected in an informal network of parents, relatives, and other concerned people. In 1994, Parveena Ahangar and a human rights lawyer-activist Parvez Imroz formalized the group as the Association of the Parents of the Disappeared (APDP) .  Ahangar is the mother of a teenage boy who disappeared in custody of Indian army. APDP became a pioneering group of human rights defenders; it was mostly women.

 The region of Kashmir is saturated with a half million troops and has suffered widespread human rights abuses. India has implemented strict counter-insurgency laws. The two most dreaded laws are the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act (AFPSA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act. These laws grant immunity to the Indian troops and allow them to arrest citizens without a warrant and to use force against any person. The Indian army and other state forces have carried out large numbers of summary executions, custodial killings, torture, disappearances, and arbitrary detentions. According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, there are between 8,000 and 10,000 cases of politically-motivated disappearances including combatant and non-combatant Kashmiris.

Amnesty International describes enforced disappearance as a particularly cruel human rights violation: a violation of the person who has ‘disappeared’ and a violation of those who love them. The army, police, and informal militia caused the disappearances, which often began with illegal detention, arrest or abduction. The state then denies that the person is being held or conceals their whereabouts, placing them outside the protection of the law. In the majority of the cases, armed forces abduct the victims in front of witnesses, often family members, and then deny outright any such action. Enforced disappearance is a continuing violation which persists often for many years after the initial abduction.  …

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