1897 Children Missing From JK Since 2008

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Officials turn deaf, dumb about the plight of missing 

SRINAGAR: The sensational revelation made by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) that  1897 children have gone missing from Jammu and Kashmir in the last five years prompted Kashmir Observer to do a detailed story. The story was published on October 29, 2015.

Eversince Kashmir Observer has been trying to elicit response from the state government over the issue but without much success.

The authorities, both civil and police, either seem to be oblivious of the fact or do not want to get into trouble of investigating this ominous trend.

Their indifference is reflected in the futile rounds that this reporter had to go for merely seeking information of public importance. After all figure 1897 means 1897 families whose children are missing. 

The state has been witnessing a sharp rise in the number of missing children particularly since 2008. Despite recent advisories issued by the union government for containing crimes against children the trend has shown no decline. 

At an average one child has gone missing per day since the past three years, NCB report reveals.  

In Kashmir valley, the case of missing children came to prominence when a 3-year old boy of Habbakadal locality in Srinagar Mehran Lateef Mir went missing mysteriously in May 2008 after returning from school. After initial investigations by the J&K police, the case was handed over to CBI by High Court of Jammu and Kashmir for speedy investigation. However, after seven years kid remains untraceable. 

When this reporter contacted the headquarters of the crime branch, Kashmir, and enquired about details of missing children from them, the person who answered the phone sought an hour’s time. When contacted after an hour, the person on the phone asked to call after ten minutes. Then after ten minutes when contacted again, the personal assistant of IGP crime came on phone and said that they could release the information only after seeking permission from the IGP. Again this reporter was asked to call after half an hour. After half an hour the person on the phone said they could not give the information as the IGP was out of State. Then, eventually, the rigmarole ended when the Personal Assistant (PA) of the  IGP said they cannot give the information as they did not  have it!

This  saga where this reporter was first led to believe  that information about missing children would be forthcoming and then after repeated attempts denied this vital information which should ideally be in the public domain speaks volumes about law enforcing agencies operating in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Syed Mujtaba Gilani, IGP of Kashmir  had clearly told this reporter that all the information pertaining to missing number of children in the State was  with  the crime headquarters of  J&K given that  every  single  police station cannot have all the records. Crime headquarters compile the whole information received from different district police stations. This compendium of information would be available with the Crime Headquarters. But, alas, repeated attempts at soliciting this information from Crime head quarters yielded no fruit.

All this is despite the provision(s) of the Right to Information Act (RTI)  2005. According to this Act-meant and aimed to inject transparency, accountability and responsiveness in Government-every person has the right to look into matters that have a public bearing. But alas, the state has become a ground for outlaws in their bright uniforms who can do whatever they would like to do in their respective zones.

On humanitarian grounds as well, the case cannot be subdued and suppressed. The missing children issue pertains to society and the state is implicated in it.

The story trotted out by the state regarding  missing and/ or disappeared persons is they might have crossed the line of control (LOC) and gone to Pakistan for arms training! This bizarre story begs the question  how can a three year or five year old cross the line of control. According to Ahsan Untoo,  Chairman of International Forum for Human Rights and Justice, “ this is how the affairs of the state are running and how our kids are being framed and killed”.

The kind of obstructionism  meted out by the state can be challenged in a court of law, says Mohammad Yousuf Parray, an advocate.  “As per the law,  a case can be registered against IGP crime headquarters Kashmir and other officers for withholding and not disclosing  information of utmost importance that pertains to public interest and good”, he says, adding, the court can take action against the erring officers if found guilty on grounds that they were having information but still they denied on pretext of superiority and negligence”. 

Under  the constitutional frame,  every single citizen has a right to information to get it without any fear or subjugation. “Legally speaking,  the court can adjucate the officers on duty of misguiding the receiver of the information”.

GN Shaheen a member of Kashmir Bar Association said, “the  court can take the suo moto of the case if information was not given despite of the gravity of the problem and denying the information on that would liable a case against the concerned officials for which they will be asked to appear in the court and under law if found guilty they would be punished by the court”.

But, apparently, in Kashmir all these legal niceties details appear to be superfluous for authorities.

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