Seventeen years after her teenage son was snatched from their home in Srinagar in Indian Kashmir, Parveena Ahanger has no idea whether he is alive or dead.
Every day, Ahanger wages battle with courts, police or government officials to try to discover clues about the fate of her son, arrested by security forces as they cracked down on a growing Islamic insurgency against Indian rule.
But as rights groups Thursday mark the International Day of the Disappeared, the mother of five concedes her chances of ever finding him alive are remote.
"All the visits (to officials) have gone to waste so far," Ahanger, 49, said as she shuffled through documents at her home.
"I am sure he has been killed and buried somewhere without last rites."
Human rights groups say more than 8,000 people have disappeared in the Indian zone of the Himalayan region disputed by New Delhi and Islamabad since an insurgency began in 1989.
Indian authorities put the missing at between 1,000 and 3,000 but deny that they arrested people who then disappeared. Instead, they insist many crossed to the Pakistani side of Kashmir for arms training and never returned.
Despite her worst fears, Ahanger, who has formed the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, is determined to keep looking.
"I have taken a vow to find out what happened to my son and others who disappeared after their arrest by the security forces," Ahanger told AFP.
"Since August 18, 1990, the night Javed was arrested, my struggle started and it is still continuing," she said.
Ahead of Thursday's commemoration, Amnesty International in India said the increased number of people disappearing is alarming."
It urged India to ratify the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment approved by 144 countries.
"Only eight countries, including India, have signed but not ratified the convention," Amnesty said in a statement.
Last Mod: 31 Ağustos 2007, 00:38
A special court in Srinagar has ruled that Javed, 16 at the time, was picked up by troops and it has named three accused, said a police officer, who asked not to be named.
"The report went to the (federal) home ministry in 1997 and is still awaiting approval," he said, noting that federal assent is needed before prosecuting troops stationed in Kashmir can act.
However a rights activist said troops themselves were behind many of the disappearances in Kashmir.
"Militants, their sympathisers, separatist political activists and innocent persons have become the victims of enforced disappearances," said Khurram Pervez, rights advocate from Kashmir's independent Coalition of Civil Society.
An army spokesman denied the charge.
"It is propaganda to malign our troops. We are strict about human rights," said army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel A.K. Mathur.
Ahanger's search has included travel to other countries to meet other families and rally support. Hopes of a breakthrough were raised earlier this year after police in Indian Kashmir exhumed five bodies.
But all five were identified as having disappeared in 2006. Their grieving families said the five had been killed in cold blood and passed off as militants by the security forces to win awards and promotions.
"I am sure my son has also been killed in a faked encounter," Ahanger said.
The discovery of the five sparked mass protests and led police to mount an investigation. At least 12 policemen, including two officers have since been arrested and charged with murder.
For Ahanger, however, the search continues.
"We just want to know what happened to our loved ones. Give us their bodies, show us their graves," said Ahanger, whose group has more than 600 registered members. "We wish to give them decent burials at least."