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J&K: MONUMENT FOR THE MISSING
By
Yoginder Sikand, Bangalore, ysikand@hotmail.com

APDP was founded in 1994, when after the outbreak of conflict large number of enforced or involuntary disappearances started taking place in Jammu and Kashmir. A group of relatives of missing persons then set themselves for the collective action against the phenomenon of disappearance, which was unknown in J&K before 1989. Since its formation more and more relatives have joined the association and after consistent struggle the association has been able to make disappearances in Kashmir an issue now. The association is campaigning for (1) stopping this inhuman practice not permissible even in war times in the state, where unabatedly it continues (in the year 2000, 91persons have disappeared) (2) Repealing of impunity laws and taking the perpetrators to justice (3) for indemnification for the victims of disappearances.

The association is one of the core member of the AFAD (Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances) which was founded in Manila in June 1998 and with the help of other members of different Asian countries like Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, is campaigning against the enforced disappearances in Asia.

After interacting with the organizations of Latin American countries (FEDEFAM) which are campaigning against the enforced disappearances in their respective countries, since 20 years, the members of the association have been moved by the memorials raised by these organizations in the memory of the missing persons. As an emotional sanctum there have been memorials built for people who got killed during protests or demonstrations, which has become the consolation to the families of the victims, and these memorials have been built in many places in almost all countries. And these memorials can be used to symbolize a commitment to new values. The words of Mojapelo about the Thokaza monument, in South Africa are a good example:

‘Through this monument, we have a simple message for the future generations and the rest of the world: never, never, never again will we allow our community to bleed this way".

The memorials are a symbol of New Hope and new life in the communities. They serve as a break between the past and the future. They help the communities in the journey of self-redefinition. They may also serve as symbols of good and bad at the same time. They remind the communities about the troubled past and comfort them with New Hope for the future regarding commitments to new values.

In contrast with the other monuments, the monument regarding the enforced disappearance of persons is needed more because the relatives are deprived of the graves, and have no place where they can give emotional vent to their feelings for their beloved ones. Relatives of the victims of the extra judicial execution or custodial deaths have at least the thousands of graves to provide some solace to them, and they can offer fateha to them. The memorials constructed in the name of enforced disappearances in Latin America and Asian countries like Sri Lanka,(where large number of disappearances have taken place has become the emotional sanctum for the relatives) is a healthy example. In Kashmir the association feels similar need. The association fears between 4000-5000 persons between the age group of 17- 40 with some exceptionally old and very young persons, have disappeared, by the law enforcing agencies equipped with draconian laws like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which provides impunity ( an impunity is the major factor behind these crimes against humanity) during their campaign against militancy and the similar need is felt by the association. The relatives of missing persons here are more than one hundred thousand, including the half widows and thousands of children. They are deprived of the graves of their beloved ones and also the rituals, which provides relief to relatives. The families are confused, though most of them have reconciled about the deaths of their beloved ones, but a number of relatives refuse to accept their death until and unless the dead bodies are not found. The majority of the relatives are desperately in need of a memorial where they could visit and pay obeisance to their missing relatives and pray collectively for them.The association in January 2000 took a decision to raise a monument and has approached the different architects, artists, and sculptors of the valley.

Lot of professionals attended the meetings and promised to provide the professional expertise. A model has been prepared now. It would be a non-figurative one bearing the names of the missing persons. Besides that, there will be a library in which research information about the missing persons will be kept and a hall for prayers. The monument will be raised near Idgah in the heart of Srinagar. Though the association wanted to raise it at the private land but the association is not in a position to purchase the land and it was decided by the executive committee of the APDP that adjacent to SHAHEED GRAVE YARD the monument will be raised. The association is appealing to people to provide suggestions if any, regarding the proposed model prepared for the monument. The association will appreciate the suggestions, modifications, as association feels the monument is a symbol against oppression and tyranny and all the people belonging to different regions, communities and religions having respect for human dignity, truth and justice, it is imperative on their part to be involved in this cause. They will be invited on the day of the laying down of the foundation of this historical monument.

FUND RAISING
The association has further resolved for a massive campaign for donations. Appeals would be made to businessmen and traders for donating material with the request to perform voluntary labour (Karseva). The contribution of the relatives of the desaparecidos will help forge a bond between them and their missing sons. The funds will be generated from the local people. In this behalf the students, artists, academicians and professionals in different spheres of life will be galvanized for fund raising. The fund raising will be from non-political sources. Though the political parties can play a vital role in the process of monument, yet often they are tempted to use the community projects to advance their party political interest hence it preferably will be avoided. The businessmen and traders can assist financially in the projects, research organizations will be welcome to capture history in the making. In this behalf the association has formulated a 5-member team, which will be campaigning for raising the donations, and there will be complete transparency, regarding the accounts and the name of the contributors will be published in the newspapers, if they so choose.

The association has decided that the foundation of the monument will be laid in the last week of June 2001. It would be a historical event and the human rights activists from different parts of India and Asia will be present at the historical moment.

“We shall never allow the past to be forgotten and we shall never allow it to happen again to future generations. The justice we seek lies not in forgetting the past but in remembering those who should never be forgotten”.
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