In January 2020, I visited the house of Irfan Ahmad Khan in Srinagar. Khan had gone missing in 1994 when he was still a schoolboy. His family suspected that he had been picked up by the military. As I listened to his family narrate stories about him, I flipped through an album of their photographs. I saw a black-and-white photo of Khan as a baby and then a few more photos of him growing up. The last photo of him was taken on his fourteenth birthday, the year that he disappeared. At the same point that Khan disappeared, evidence of him disappeared from the family album.
My visit to Khan’s family was part of the project I was working on along with the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons in Kashmir. The APDP is a movement against the many enforced disappearances that have been rampant in the valley for decades. An enforced disappearance occurs when a person is detained or abducted and there is subsequently no information provided about the person’s whereabouts or fate. The association estimates that between eight thousand and ten thousand people have been disappeared since the start of the insurgency in Kashmir, which since 1989 has resulted in the massive militarisation of the valley. The APDP documents disappearances and provides support to families of the disappeared. As a photographer, I worked with them to preserve the memories of the disappeared by gathering visual evidence from their families. Khan was the youngest victim of enforced disappearance that I came across.