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AFAD activist denied entry in India
Naim Naqvi | 20 Aug 2014

Mary Aileen Diez Bacalso, the Secretary General of 'Asian Federation Against involuntary Disappearances' (AFAD) was banned to enter India on the night of 17th August 2014 at the Mumbai International Airport. On 11th August, Aileen Bacalso had tried to apply for visa from the Indian embassy in Manila.

While her papers were complete her application was not accepted on the pretext that time was too short but they looked at the documents and were completely aware that she was travelling on 17th August to India. At around 10 p.m. upon arriving at the Mumbai International Airport, Aileen was immediately taken to a separate office, where around nine officials were present. Without asking any questions and even before Aileen could apply for visa on arrival, the officials started filling up a form, which later Aileen came to know was the form for refusal to land.  It must have been a step taken in the interest of national integrity and security.

Aileen Bacalso is also the prominent member of the 'International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances' ICAED with 52 members worldwide. Before taking the issue of her entry, let us describe what the AFAD stands for. It is a coalition gathering organization that works for the "disappeared" in several South Asian Countries. It's core members include the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearances from the Philippines, the Organization of Parents and Family Members of the Disappeared (OPFMD) from Sri Lanka, the Association of Parents of is appeared Persons (APDP) in the Indian Jammu and Kashmir and the KONTRAS of Indonesia. It works to coordinate the efforts of the different groups and provide support to all of them.  It's aided in its mission by FEDEFAM.

It is worth to recall that APDP as a member organization of AFAD had produced a report in December 2009 on unmarked graves and mass graves in Jammu and Kashmir, which later became a huge embarrassment for Indian State. In Jammu and Kashmir more than 8000 people have been subjected to enforced disappearances. So far according to the research of APDP, 7,000 unmarked graves and mass graves have been identified in Jammu and Kashmir.

It is for the second time anyone from AFAD has been stopped from entering India. Previously another AFAD Administrative Officer was refused entry in India in the year 2010. No AFAD representatives have ever been banned from visiting any country.

This ban on AFAD representatives to Jammu and Kashmir puts India in tight spot as it gives substance to distract by the human rights activists around the globe. India is the largest democracy in the world and this step would take away some sheen from that claim as AFAD would eventually report this blockade to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and to other Special Rapporteurs. AFAD urges the international human rights organizations and the institutions to question Indian government's intransigence and their policy towards human rights work.

It is the time we come with confidence and grit to show the world that we bear a clear conscience and sound record of human values and human rights.