Published in The Kashmir Dispatch on Aug. 18 ::
Mary Aileen Diez Bacalso, the Secretary General of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) was banned to enter India on the night of August 17 at the Mumbai International Airport.
According to a statement issued by Mugiyanto, the Chairperson AFAD, Bacalso is also the Focal Person of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances with 52 members worldwide.
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. on 17th August 2014, 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, the officials started filling up a form, which later Aileen came to know was the form for refusal to land. None of Aileen’s questions or concerns were answered, instead she was asked when was the last time she visited India, which was in November 2009, and also ‘what bad happened then’. Aileen Bacalso was sent back on the same flight and her passport was only handed over to her when she arrived at Manila. The only answer given to her question on why she was banned was that she should know.
It is pertinent to mention that Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), a member organization of AFAD 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.
No AFAD representatives have ever been banned from visiting any country.
This ban on AFAD representatives to Jammu and Kashmir and India shows the deep paranoia and hostility of the Indian government towards human rights activists. It appears that Indian State’s objective from this ban is also to isolate the human rights activists from Jammu and Kashmir. India, despite being the largest democracy has consistently behaved like a rigid anti-human rights country without any respect and concern to allow human rights groups to work unhindered in Jammu and Kashmir.
AFAD will 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.