“I don’t let my husband to close the door. I tell him to keep it open. My sons will come home…,” says Khadija as she fixes her gaze at the entrance of her home in Srinagar, waiting endlessly for her two sons who disappeared allegedly in the custody of Indian police nearly two decades ago in Nepal.
Muhammad Shafi Rah and his younger brother Mushtaq Ahmad Rah were among 25 Kashmiris detained reportedly during a raid by the Indian police and their Nepali counterparts in September 2000, months after an Indian airliner was hijacked from Kathmandu.
Largest-selling newspaper in Nepal, The Kathmandu Post, published the news about the arrest of Kashmiris in Nepal in 2000.
The news item mentioned the names of Mushtaq and Shafi among the 27 arrested, stating that out of 27 arrestees, 10 were released and the rest taken to the unknown secret detention centers.
“Most of the arrested were released after short periods of detention but my two sons and a few others were taken away from Kathmandu in vehicles and were never seen again,” says their father, Abdul Ahad Rah, in a witness affidavit filed before State Human Rights Commission, Srinagar.
Rah sr. who has been to Nepal and several Indian states to search for his missing sons has appealed to Home Minister Rajnath Singh and governor Satya Pal Malik to grant him a meeting with his sons.
“My name is Abdul Ahad Rah and I live at Maharaj Gunj in Srinagar. My two sons have been jailed. Grant me a meeting (with my sons),” says 86-year-old Rah, in his appeal.
He says that his sons worked in the leather industry in Nepal where they manufactured leather bags, gloves etc. before they disappeared.
“They had been working there for a long time. Indian police and their Nepali counterparts carried out a raid in Kathmandu and detained several persons. My two sons were among those detained,” says Rah.
He says that they received a telephone call from Nepal informing them about the arrests. “We rushed to Nepal but they didn’t listen to us. They said that my sons were taken to Delhi by intelligence wing of Indian police,” says Rah.
“We kept on searching and we were told that they were taken to a prison in Jodhpur (Rajasthan). We went there. We sent two lawyers and a man there. They were told that both my sons were lodged in Jodhpur. We requested for a meeting but they asked to produce an affidavit first. Our lawyer called the jail superintendent on phone but he asked them to produce an affidavit first.”
When the family went to Jodhpur with the affidavit, Rah says, they were told by the officials that can’t be allowed to meet with their sons as “we have been instructed against meetings by the Kashmir cell.”
Muhammad Yasin, another son of Rah says the family hasn’t given up hope. “They (my parents) keep on waiting day in and out. They think that their sons have come home whenever there is a knock on their door,” he says.
Yasin says they have been searching his brothers for past eighteen years. “…you should take a look at the condition of our parents.”
“If Kashmir government asks us to leave this house in lieu of a meeting with our brothers I swear on God we are ready to do that,” he says.
Yasin says that his brothers should be punished if they are guilty, but not at the cost of his parents’ health.
“We are not asking government to release them if they done anything wrong. We don’t want governor to bring bad name to the country. Government should sentence them for a year in prison if they are guilty. In fact, we would ask them to sentence them for one more year in prison, but you shouldn’t punish their parents. What is the crime of their parents?” he asks.
Rah sr. says he has been calling for justice from past eighteen years but no one is paying heed. “Nobody is paying heed to my requests. I am not asking for money. All I am asking is for a meeting with my sons. Punish them but at least grant us a meeting with them. What sort of injustice is this?” he asks.
His two sons are among thousands other who disappeared mostly in the custody of Indian armed forces soon after the onset of militancy in 1989 in Kashmir.
The APDP or the association of disappeared persons says that at least 8,000 people have gone missing in enforced disappearances by government forces since 1989.
However, officials say that most of the missing persons have crossed over to Pakistan-administered Kashmir to receive arms training. They put the number around 1000.