//Kashmir parents protest against "disappearances"

Kashmir parents protest against "disappearances"

Mon Oct 30, 2006

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) – Dozens of parents protested in Kashmir's main city on Monday to demand information about their children who they said had disappeared since a rebellion broke out in the Himalayan region in 1989.

The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), an independent group representing the parents of missing people, demonstrated at a park in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, carrying photographs of the people they said had disappeared.

"At least return bodies of our dear ones, so that we can give them a proper funeral," cried 55-year-old housewife, Sondari, who uses only one name, holding a photograph of her son.

Sondari and others were wearing white headbands carrying the names of their relatives. Other demonstrators held placards saying "Stop disappearances."

APDP says 8,000 to 10,000 people have disappeared since 1989.

"All of the them vanished after their arrest by security forces," Parveena Ahanger, the president of APDP, said.

Authorities deny the allegations and say their investigations found most missing people had crossed the heavily militarised Line of Control into Pakistani Kashmir for arms training.

"Many of them have crossed the LoC and some have joined militant ranks," Kashmir's law minister, Abdul Hamid Qarra, said at a function last week.

Authorities say violence has steadily decreased since India and Pakistan, who have fought two wars over Kashmir, began a peace process in 2004.

"During the past one year there have been the lowest of all custodial deaths and disappearances since the inception of militancy in the state," Ghulam Nabi Azad, chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said in a statement.

More than 45,000 people have been killed in 17 years of violence in the region.