On the International Human Rights Day on Monday, the state human rights commission held a day-long event here deliberating on drug abuse in Kashmir, as elsewhere victims of human rights abuses and other in their solidarity held silent protest sit-ins to mark the day.
The SHRC discussed the issue of drug abuse in the auditorium of the government’s information department with top authorities of civil administration and police in attendance as cameras clicked away pictures of many speakers, including its chairman Justice (Rtd) Bilal Nazki.
“During the current year, more than 10,000 people visited SMHS hospital and Police Drug De-Addiction and Rehabilitation to get treatment for their drug addiction. That is the reason, we choose Drug Abuse topic on today’s Human Rights Day,’’ Nazki said, according to a government statement about the SHRC event.
A stone’s throw from the venue, a group of women and men staged a silent protest out in the freezing cold holding placards asking, “Where are our loved ones?”
The protest was organised by Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) led by its chairperson, Parveena Ahangar.
The Association has for decades been demanding an investigation into about 10,000 cases of enforced disappearances allegedly by government forces or militia supported by them.
“We organise this protest every year to highlight our pain. The pain of our missing kin,” Ahanger told Greater Kashmir.
She said institutions like the SHRC were a mere “formality” by the government.
“We are waiting for justice since so many years,” Ahangar said.
“Beyond judgments and wanting us to get compensation money by signing some bond, they (SHRC) never did anything.”
Rights defender and chairperson of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), Khurram Parvez said the SHRC decision of talking about drug addiction on World Human Rights Day was to avoid annoying the powerful by remaining silent on the urgent issues of rights abuse.
“If an institution responsible for protecting and promoting human rights, talks about peripheral social issues to avoid annoying the powerful, it is a sign of weakness of those institutions and the individuals leading them,” said Parvez, who is also the programme coordinator of a prominent rights group, the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Socieity.
“This is typical of the reality of Kashmir, where on a theoretical level every right is available but in practice every right has been violated with complete impunity.”
Sabia Dar, project officer with APDP, also expressed surprise at SHRC choosing to deliberate on drug abuse on the international day of human rights, saying June 26 was already observed as drug abuse day this year.
“Instead of choosing to speak on the issue of small children losing their eyesight to pellets, I wonder they choose to speak on drug addiction. We have recent case of 19-month old Hiba Jan whose eyes were damaged due to pellets,” Dar said, adding lives and homes are routinely lost in Kashmir as collateral damage.
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