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Missing saga in Doda falls on deaf ears
While the international media has highlighted the case of thousands of people who went missing in Kashmir valley during past two decades, little has been written and known about the missing saga in Doda, another beautiful region in Jammu and Kashmir.

LIKE KASHMIR valley and other parts of the state, Doda region too had its own tryst with missing people. From last 22 years, since the beginning of militant uprising against India, entire Doda region has suffered a lot in every shape. Besides torture, kidnapping, brutal killings, encounters and rapes, the saga of missing people has been taking a massive toll on their families.

“I had five sons and Tanveer was 3rd; he was taken away in 1997 by some un-identified persons from neighborhood,” Maryam Begum says with tears rolling down her cheeks while she narrates the story.

According to Begum, Tanveer was the only son who helped his blacksmith father to feed the family. “We approached a number of government offices and other non-governmental organisations, working for missing people, but every time we returned empty handed and nothing but assurances.

Although Begum didn't speak much, but I could understand many things, which were revealed by her teary and expressive eyes. I could sense her longing for her missing son, which she couldn't express through her words.

Tanveer's octogenarian father, Barkatullah Khoker remained silent most of the time during our conversation, but only words he spoke exuded hope that his son will return home some day.

This is not the only case. Saleem Zargar's story is another untold saga. Unaware whether their son is alive or dead, Zargar's parents are also left with just hope. “My son is missing from September 14, 1995 and I am still waiting for him. We don't know whether he is alive or dead but we keep on assuring that he would be well,” says Syeda Begum, Zargar's mother, adding, “I have left no stone unturned to trace my son.”

She has visited all the police stations she could, but she has like other cases, been just assured of her son's return. “Why can't they (police) trace my son?” she asks desperately.

Zargar's brother, Anayatullah has like his father lost faith in the justice system and shivers even at the mention of his brother's 'missing story'. “My hopes are totallyu shattered as I can't see my family  suffering endlessly. Every morning they wake up with the hope that somebody will tell them about the whereabouts of their son,” Anayatullah informs.

People do not just disappear by themselves. There is almost a tragic reason behind sudden disappearances. Since this is a conflict zone, in every case almost, it has been found people responsible for making someone disappear are directly or indirectly linked to state authorities.

In Kashmir valley, according to various human rights organisation, around 8000 people have disappeared in past two decades; most of them disappeared after they were picked up by various security agencies. Amnesty International and various human rights organisations have taken a note of these disappearances, but Doda is the only region where this saga is 'unrevealed and untouched', according to Naseer Ahmad Khora, a journalist and a human rights activist.

The cases of Tanveer and Saleem are just the tip of the iceberg. Parents of Manzoor Ahmad from Berwar area of Kishtwar district died after his sudden disappearance. “My Brother was a good man and in 1998, some person in military fatigues came to our house at Berwar and took him for some inquiry,” says Misra Bano, Manzoor's sister, adding, “and after that he never returned.” The family had to face another jolt when Manzoor's brother-in-law, Abdul Latief, a government school teacher, went missing in the same year.

In 2002, the ruling National conference put the figure of disappeared persons stood at 3,184 while the opposition People's Democratic Party informed the assembly in February 2003 that 3744 people were missing in the state.

According to the Srinagar-based Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) which has rendered yeoman service all these years, at least 8,000 persons have disappeared since the counter-insurgency operations began in 1989. Punjab witnessed a similar pattern of abuse and cover-up during the counter-insurgency operations from 1984 to 1995.

An inquiry by the police investigation team of the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has found 2,730 bodies dumped into unmarked graves in four districts in the Kashmir valley. Many people, including the human rights activists have raised concerns that missing people might have been buried inside their graves.

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