Desperate Kashmiris in search of missing youth

Srinagar – The parents of disappeared Kashmiri youth are running from pillar to post to get any clue about their dear ones, who went missing in unknown circumstances during more than decade-long insurgency in Kashmir.

The newly elected chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed recently admitted that a total of 3744 persons were reported missing in Jammu and Kashmir during the past three years alone. Describing the missing of persons as unfortunate, he said 1553 persons were reported missing in 2000, 1586 in 2001 and 605 in 2002.

Giving details on district wise number of the missing persons since 2000 to ending December 2002, he said that 1553 persons had reportedly been missing during the year 2002, 1586 during 2001 and 605 during 2002. In total 3744 persons have been reportedly disappeared during the last three years.

Faced with the appalling disappearance of youths in Kashmir, desperate parents are still hoping for their safe return even as the increasing number of missing persons in the state in recent months has put the authorities on tenterhooks apprehending an upsurge in militancy.

The cases of disappearance of youths have increased as unofficial estimates put the number of those who remain untraced at about 15,000 with aggrieved parents and relatives on a relentless pursuit of the missing ones.

Abdul Rashid Bhat, a resident of the Nishat area in Srinagar here, has been running from pillar to post in a bid to obtain any clue about his missing college-going son Mohammad Ishaq, who disappeared from Gandhi Memorial College here on October 11, 1995.

“He (Ishaq) left for college on the fateful day and never returned home. The whole family is shattered and has suffered for four years as his memories continue to haunt us,” recalls visibly disturbed Bhat.

Bhat and his relatives, after a fruitless search for Ishaq or his dead body, had already performed his last rites as per Islamic traditions but in their heart of hearts the entire family was still waiting for him to return.

The relentless search for his missing son has left Bhat in a state of bankruptcy as getting any information requires greasing palm of that source.

“I’m not going to give up. Even in providing false information about his (Ishaq’s) whereabouts, people have cheated me umpteen times treating me as a lunatic father,” contends Bhat, 49, who owns a shop near the famous Mughal Garden.

Bhat, who earlier had approached the police, the BSF, Army and the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) to investigate his son’s case and failed to get any clues, got some relief when the state Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah ordered an inquiry into the disappearance of Ishaq on September 25 last.

As the state government instituted an inquiry into Ishaq’s case, thousands of aggrieved parents urged for similar treatment to ascertain the fate of their missing wards.

The alarming increase in the number of missing youths from almost all districts of Kashmir during recent months has sounded alarm bells for the authorities who apprehend and link their disappearance to the revival of the waning militancy in the state.

“There has been an increase in reports of missing youths as is evident from number of FIRs being filed by parents in local police stations of the various districts”, admits a senior police official on condition of anonymity.

Over the past few months, a plethora of appeals by parents to missing youths have been appearing in local dailies.

Still in a state of shock over the mysterious disappearance of his youngest son on September 19, Ghulam Nabi Mir and his family find it hard to believe that Firdaous Ahmed, a 12th standard student, is missing after playing in nearby ground.

“My son was seen playing cricket with his friends when people last saw him and has since disappeared for reasons unknown to me,” says Mir, a resident of Biner Kahdoora in Baramulla district in north Kashmir. Denying that his son might have joined militant ranks, Mir fumes with anger saying his son had no such inclination.

“This is to rub salt into my wounds. I know my son better than anyone else and he didn’t have any urge or sympathy towards militancy,” says Mir, a farmer.