Mass Graves in Kashmir
Srinagar, Dec 2: A human rights group Wednesday claimed to have found 2700 unmarked and mass graves containing bodies of 2943 people across 55 villages of north Kashmir districts of Kupwara, Varmul and Bandipora.
The International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice, a rights watchdog, released a preliminary report “Buried Evidence: Unknown, Unmarked, and Mass Graves” in which the revelations were made.
Releasing the report, convenor of the Tribunal, Dr Angana P Chatterji said the graveyards investigated have bodies of those murdered in encounters and fake encounters from 1990 to 2009. “The graves include bodies of extra-judicial, summary and arbitrary executions, as well as massacres by the Indian military and paramilitary forces,” she said and added that of these graves 2373 (87.9 percent) were unnamed. “154 contained two bodies each and 23 contained more than two bodies. Within these 23 graves, the number of bodies ranged from 3 to 17.”
She said that post-death, the bodies of the victims were routinely handled by military, para-military and police personnel. “The bodies were then brought to secret graveyards by Kashmir police personnel. The graves were dug by local gravediggers and caretakers, buried individually when possible and specifically not en-mass, in keeping with Islamic religious sensibilities.”
The report has been already submitted to the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, the UN Commission on Involuntarily Disappearances, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Tribunal asked the state and the central governments to enable independent and transparent investigations into unknown, unmarked and mass graves, drawing upon varied, credible and international expertise, and institute an independent and transparent commission of inquiry. “There is bound to be a reasonable correlation between these graves and the people who have disappeared.”
“If the government of India is serious about Kashmir resolution, here is our call of action,” said Dr Chatterji, who teaches Anthropology at California Institute of Integral Studies.
The report has examined 50 alleged encounter killings by the troops. “Of these, 49 people were labelled militants/foreign insurgents by the security forces. However, the Tribunal found that 47 people were killed in fake encounters and only one was a local militant,” she added.
The report comes 19 months after the Association of Parents of Disappeared People (APDP) released its report on nameless graves. Titled “Facts Under Ground”, the report gave details of 940 to 1000 nameless graves. The report was compiled after a two-year survey conducted by volunteers of the APDP in three tehsils, including Uri and Varmul in north Kashmir.
Flanked by human rights activists Guatam Navlakha, Pervez Imroz and Zahir-ud-Din, Dr Chatterji said these unmarked graves have been placed next to fields, schools and homes, largely on community land and their effect on the local community is daunting.
“If the independent investigations were to be undertaken in all 10 districts, it is reasonable to assume that 8000 disappearances since 1989 would correlate with the number of bodies in unknown, unmarked and mass graves,” she said. The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons in Kashmir says there are 8000 people who have been subjected to enforced disappearance.
She said the photographs and the first information reports pertaining to those buried in unknown, unmarked, and mass graves across Jammu and Kashmir that are reportedly kept in police custody must be rendered into the public domain so that claimants may pursue their claim.
“The international community and institutions have not examined the supposition of crimes against humanity in J&K. The UN and its member states have remained ineffective in containing and halting the adverse consequences of the militarization,” she added.
(from Greater Kashmir)