Srinagar Jammu and Kashmir (India)
There are apprehensions that the issue of unmarked graves in the valley may trigger yet another unrest, if the government did not deal with the sensitive issue properly. For long, relatives of disappeared persons in the valley have been demanding a probe to trace out the whereabouts of disappeared.
The aggrieved have held numerous protests under the banner of APDP to press the government order a time bound probe and reveal the facts. But the government so far has miserably failed to make any progress with regard to the issue. According to SHRC, three years of investigative work by senior officials at the Commission has revealed that hundreds of people branded as unidentified militants were buried in unmarked graves in the north Kashmir districts of Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora.
The rights group has asked state government to ensure the safety of the 62 witnesses who have given statements to the police team and ensure that they, along with relatives of the disappeared persons, local human rights defenders and members of the police investigation team are not pressured, intimidated or subjected to any reprisals.
Meanwhile Global human rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI) has urged Government of India to conduct an impartial investigation into the existence of unmarked graves in Jammu and Kashmir. It has also called for preservation of the evidence. Asking for securing all unmarked grave sites, AI called for carrying out investigations by impartial forensic experts in line with the UN Model Protocol on “The Disinterment and Analysis of Skeletal Remains.”
As per the SHRC report, out of more than 2,000 graves 574 were of local residents. The report reads, “There is every probability that these unidentified graves at 38 places of North Kashmir may contain the bodies of those believed to be the cases of enforced disappearances,” Before taking any decision, the state government would study the SHRC report as the decision to the effect was taken at Unified Headquarters meeting held under the chairmanship of the chief minister .
Omar had also called for setting up of Truth and Reconciliation Commission to probe all the incidents of HR violations committed for over past two decades. The report catalogues 2,156 bodies found in graves in four districts of Kashmir that witnessed large number of insurgency operations. SHRC has called for a thorough inquiry and collection of DNA evidence to identify the dead, and urged that anyone killed by security forces in Kashmir in the future be properly identified to avoid abuse of special laws shielding the military. The amnesty international has said that following a report by a police investigation team, confirming the existence of unmarked graves containing bodies of persons subjected to enforced disappearances, urgent action needs to be taken including preserving the evidence and widening the investigation across the state.
The AI statement said that over 2700 unmarked graves have been identified by the 11-member police team of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in four districts of north Kashmir. Contrary to the claims of police that the graves contained dead bodies of “unidentified militants”, the report points out that 574 bodies have been identified as disappeared locals – 17 of these have already been exhumed and shifted to family or village grave sites.
AI further said that police report concludes that there is “every probability” that the remaining over 2100 unidentified graves “may contain the dead bodies of (persons subjected to) enforced disappearances. Govt needs to deal the issue with care, otherwise it may trigger yet another unrest.
Amin Masoodi is a journalist based in Srinagar, Indian administered (Jammu and Kashmir)