"Kashmir’s Torture Trail,” a documentary shown on the British TV Channel 4 at 11.10pm on Tuesday 10 July 2012 was harrowing tale of human right abuses perpetrated by para military forces in Kashmir.
The central figure in the documentary is a dignified, seemingly progressive and secular advocate at the J&K high court, Pervez Imroz. In 2005 he was awarded the Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize, first given to Nelson Mandela.
He was portrayed as diligently compiling complaints of disappearances, rape and torture; and filing cases in court on these.Corpses were brought in by the truckload and buried on an industrial scale. The report catalogued 2,156 bullet-riddled bodies found in mountain graves and called for an inquiry to identify them.
Imroze was able to estimate that 8,000 Kashmiri non-combatants had vanished from army custody in a state the size of Ireland – four times more than disappeared under Pinochet in Chile.
He was shocked by the implications. Indian law requires that the police probe every violent death and that corpses be identified. But in the village of Bimyar, white-haired Atta Muhammad Khan came forward to describe how he had been forced to buried 203 unidentified bodies under cover of the night – men whose identities and crimes were unstated. "Some corpses were disfigured. Others were burnt. We did not ask questions." It was a similar story in Kichama village, where the lawyer mapped 235 unmarked graves and in Bijhama, where 200 more unidentified corpses had been interred.
The state government acknowledged for the first time in 2011 that thousands of bodies lie in unmarked graves around Kashmir.
Had the graves been found under Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s compound in Libya or in the rubble of Homs in Syria, there surely would have been an uproar. But when over 2,000 skeletons appear in the conflict-ridden backyard of the world’s largest democracy, no one bats an eye.
Channel 4 said it had decided to air the programme because the issue of Kashmir, one of the world’s oldest running but neglected disputes, is in danger of being overshadowed by Syria and the euro-zone debt crisis.
In 2010, Wikileaks revealed that International Committee for the Red Cross staff had informed US diplomats that they had interviewed 1,296 detainees in Kashmiri prisons between 2002 and 2005, and 681of them had gone through one or more of six forms of torture: electric shocks, leg crushing, leg stretching, suspension from a ceiling, water boarding, and sexual assault.
India has not allowed the UN’s special rapporteur for torture to visit Kashmir since 1993. The country has signed but not ratified the UN Convention against Torture.