Disappearances, Custodial Deaths Galore
Keeping the Hopes Aflame
Disappearances, Custodial Deaths Galore
A. B. Masoud in Delhi
THE Women’s Initiative for Peace in South Asia (WIPSA) has asked the countrymen to attend to the “deeply hurt psyche” of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. A six-member delegation of the Women’s NGO that visited the troubled state last month has asked for “impartial investigations in to human rights violations, setting up of civil society tribunals and initiation of a process of healing and reconciliation with the people of Kashmir.
The WIPSA had organised the bus journey undertaken by Indian women activists to Pakistan and the return journey by Pakistani women led by noted human rights activist Asma Jehangir to India last March. During these conclaves it was decided that the Indian and Pakistani women activists would visit respective parts of Jammu and Kashmir under their control to assess the political and civil rights situation.
The Indian chapter of the WIPSA led by noted Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande here has now published a report entitled Kashmir: The Journey in Quest of Peace after spending a week in Jammu and Kashmir by interacting with women, victims of human rights abuses, political leaders and State authorities including Chief Minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah. Other members of the delegation included Dr. Syeda Saiyidain Hameed, Mohini Giri, Suman Gupta, Shakuntala Joshi and Ram Mohan Roy.
Mentioning the case of a 15-year old girl who had been picked up in the middle of night by the Special Operation Group (SOG), the WIPSA members expressed amazement: “How a girl child could be arrested in the night when according to law a woman or girl could not be touched between sunset and sunrise.” The report said; “Our query found no answers when we raised the issue at the dinner hosted by the Minister of State for Forests and Environment in the Farooq government. We were privately told that there was “nothing unusual in this case.”
The report authored by Dr. Saiyidain Hameed also mentions the custodial death of a 19-year old boy Ajaz. “Ajaz was the only son; there is one younger daughter. The mother is inconsolable,” says the report, while describing the scenewhen the delegation visited Ajaz’s house.
Nearby, the report said, was the house of Rafiq Ahmed Baqal. A young man in mid-thirties, Rafiq was returning from a wedding party near Srinagar at 10 p.m. The group was stopped by the security personnel at Amirakadal Bridge. While others were released after a few questions, the security officer retained Rafiq and assured his friends that he would be released after a few more queries. A few hours later Rafiq’s body was thrown on the road. ‘Killed in encounter’ was the official version.
The women’s delegation found that people in Kashmir were not interested in the autonomy demand put forward by chief minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah.
Kashmiri women told the team that they don’t feel safe anyway. “When we get up in the morning we don’t know if we will be alive by evening!”
Describing their meetings with political leaders, the WIPSA report said all of them wanted a negotiated settlement and peace in Jammu and Kashmir.
Syeda Hameed, convener of the WIPSA in India said that common people in Kashmir felt betrayed by New Delhi. But, they are also concerned at the “unfortunate” developments unfolding in Pakistan including its political and economic stability, off and on military take overs, future of democracy etc. “The people are slowly getting disillusioned with Pakistan also,” she believed.
The report has criticised the Union government for disinformation campaign and hiding truth about Kashmir. “The ignorance about Jammu and Kashmir that prevails in India is truly abysmal.” The WIPSA report has asked women organisations to play a role in healing the hurt psyche of Kashmiris and asked civil society groups to visit the State and forge personal links with the people. The report has also called on the NGOs to set up facilities for displaced persons, widowed women and establish legal literacy centres, micro credit schemes and training-cum production centres for those affected by the conditions that have been prevalent for over a decade.
Keeping the Hopes Aflame
IN the on-going conflict in Kashmir, over seventy thousand people have lost their lives, scores more brutally injured, many women raped and thousands left orphaned. Property worth hundreds of crores has been destroyed. In the midst of this carnage a few individuals and groups are involved in rendering humanitarian assistance to the hapless victims of the turmoil. For the most part they operate on a shoe-string budget and face tremendous financial constraints, besides having to work in a very harsh situation. These non-political and non-sectarian groups need assistance from sympathetic groups and individuals. Some of these groups are the following:
The Jammu and Kashmir Yateem Trust
Maisuma, Gowkadal, Srinagar, Kashmir-190001 [Telephone Number: 0194-475114]
This trust was set up in 1972 by the famous Kashmiri poet and writer Tak Zainagiri. Its declared objectives are the welfare of orphans, widows, and destitute, the aged and the disabled. At present it takes care of 40 orphaned children, providing them all basic facilities including food and education. The children are housed in an orphanage, the Gulshan Mahal Hostel. The trust has recently acquired 11 kunals of land at Gopalpora, where it plans to set up an orphanage and school for girls. Its other activities include providing interest-free loans to poor families to set up small businesses and arranging for the marriage of girls from poor families. Most of its staff work on a voluntary basis.
Society for Human Welfare and Education
Silk Factory Road, Solima, Srinagar, Kashmir 190009.
This society was set up in 1941. Its primary objective is providing education to children from poorer families. It also provides education and training to handicapped people to enable them to be emotionally and economically self-reliant. It runs the English-medium Modern High School at Solima, with classes from kindergarten to the metric level. The fee is highly subsidised, and most of the 700 girls and boys enrolled in the school come from poor families. The society also runs a special school for deaf and dumb children, from nursery to the 8th standard, after which they are admitted to the society’s regular school. These children are also trained in craft such as tailoring, embroidery, short-hand and typing. The society has a home for the blind, where some 20 children live and are provided education, board and lodging free of cost. They are taught through Braille and are also trained in various crafts.
Home for the Disabled
Near General Bus Stand, Pulwama.
This organisation is actively involved in providing relief, rehabilitation, education and training to disabled and handicapped people since 1983.
H.N.S.S. De-Addiction Hospital
Mir Masjid, Khanyar, Srinagar [0194-450976].
In recent years the incidence of drug abuse and addiction has increased alarmingly in the state. This organisation is doing pioneering work in the field of de-addiction. It was set up in 1996 by a couple, Dr. Ghulam Nabi and his wife Dr. Hameeda Jan. Till date it has treated some 150 persons.
Jammu and Kashmir Hussaini Relief Committee
Alamgiri Bazaar, Srinagar-190001.
The Hussaini relief Committee was established in 1972, and has been serving the needy irrespective of caste and creed. It has some 800 volunteers in the state. It regularly organises blood donation camps, and the blood is provided to victims of violence. It has arranged for some 14,800 units of blood for needy people till date. It also organises free medical camps.
Jammu and Kashmir Children’s Welfare Society
Dukani-Sangeen, Khanqah-I-Mualla, Srinagar, Kashmir.
This organisation was set up in 1997 in order to provide free education, medical care and financial assistance to poor children. At present it has adopted 250 needy children, including several orphans, whom it gives free education to.
Yateem Welfare Society
This organisation was set up in 1998 in order to render assistance to widows, orphans and the destitute. At present some 25 orphans are provided free education and food by the centre.
3rd floor, Butt Complex, Madina Chowk, Gowkadal, Srinagar, Kashmir. Email : email@example.com
This organisation was set up in 2000 in order to provide free information and career guidance to students and financial assistance to needy students. Some 30 poor students, including several orphans, are being provided scholarships by the centre.
United Mission Foundation for Kashmir
211 Patlipora [Bala], Chhatabal,, Srinagar, Kashmir-190010 [0194-476367/478344. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org]
This organisation was set up by a group of students in 1998. It runs a public library, promotes educational awareness and provides career guidance. It has a research wing that focuses on social, educational, economic and cultural issues related to the state.
Shah-I-Hamadan Educational Trust
This organisation runs a religious school [Madrassa] and an English-medium school in Pampore. Some 40 children study at the madrassa, where they are provided free education, board and lodging. Many of the 350 students at the trust’s English-medium school are orphans or come from poor families, and they are given free education
(Contributed by Dr. Yoginder Sikand)