Whose Unmarked Graves in Kashmir?
By Sajjad Shaukat
Both open and clandestine techniques of state terrorism are being employed by India to suppress the struggle of Kashmiris who are fighting for their genuine right of self-determination as recognised by the UN resolutions. In this regard, after fabricating a false case of his role in attacking the Indian parliament in 2001, Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged on February 9, this year, while he had denied any involvement in the event. Besides, Indian authorities did not allow Guru’s family to meet him before his execution.
Pakistanis have reaffirmed solidarity with Kashmiris, while expressing serious concerns on the repressive measures taken by India in wake of Afzal Guru’s judicial murder.
Meanwhile, recently, a Srinagar based non-political organization “Voice of Victims” in its report has revealed the discovery of 60 new mass graves in Srinagar and Budgam districts. In 2008, a rights group reported unmarked graves in 55 villages across the northern regions of Baramulla, Bandipore and Handwara. Then researchers and other groups pointed out thousands of mass graves without markers. In fact, in the last few years, rights groups discovered more than 3,000 unnamed graves in the various districts of Kashmir.
In this context, in August, 2011, Indian Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) officially acknowledged in its report that 2,156 unidentified bodies of the innocent civilians killed in the two-decade conflict had been buried in unmarked graves in various regions of the Indian-held Kashmir.
While concealing actual details, the Indian commission’s report also disclosed that few bodies were defaced, 20 were charred, five only had skulls remaining, and there were at least 18 graves with more than one body each. Before this admission, Indian high officials had been emphasising that all these bodies were of militant fighters—claimed by police when they were handed over to villages for burial.
Notably, foreign sources and human rights organisations have confirmed that unnamed graves include those innocent persons, killed by the Indian military and para-military troops in the fake encounters including those who were tortured to death by the Indian secret agency RAW.
However, the question of unmarked graves which shows shocking brutalities of Indian security forces in the Indian controlled Kashmir has been appearing with more details.
In its report, China’s leading News Agency Xinhua unearthed more unmarked graves in Poonch of the Indian held Kashmir. The report quoted the statement of Sofi Aziz Joo, caretaker of a graveyard as saying, “Police and Army used to bring those bodies and direct me to bury them. The bodies were usually bullet-ridden, mutilated, faces disfigured and sometimes without limbs and heads.”
While, rights groups have disclosed that more than 8,000 people have disappeared, accusing government forces of staging fake gun battles to cover up killings. The groups also revealed that suspected rebels have been arrested and never heard from again.
Particularly, Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), which in March 2008 released a report, titled, “Facts Underground”, had indicated the presence of unidentified graves. The APDP, which estimated around 10,000 people disappeared during the last two decades, claims, “many missing people may have ended up in these unmarked graves.”
In December 2009, another human rights group, the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights had released a report, saying that unnamed graveyards “entomb bodies of those, murdered in fake encounters and arbitrary executions.”
Besides, on June 28, 2010, BBC reported, “three men went missing in Indian-administered Kashmir in April…but their bodies were discovered near the Line of Control…a senior officer of the Indian army had kidnapped them by offering them jobs as porters. The troops later informed the police that they had killed three militants. Kashmir’s law minister, Ali Mohammad Sagar says there have been several proven cases of fake encounters in the past 20 years.”
BBC explained, “There are hardliners in the Indian Army and intelligence agencies, who think that by raising the bogey of infiltration and gun battles near the border they can create terror among people and also put pressure on Pakistan.”
A recent report on human rights violations by Indian Army and its paramilitary forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir disclosed that since 1989, there have been deaths of 93,274 innocent Kashmiris, 6,969 custodial killings, 117,345 arrests and 105,861 destructions of houses. Indian brutal security forces have orphaned over 107, 351 children, widowed 22,728 women and gang raped 9,920 women.
Especially, Human Rights Watch, in its various reports and Amnesty International also pointed out grave human rights violations in the Indian controlled Kashmir, indicating, “The Muslim majority population in the Kashmir Valley suffers from the repressive tactics of the security forces. Under the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act and Public Safety Act, security forces personnel have extraordinary powers to shoot suspected persons.”
In this respect, European Union passed a resolution on May 11, 2011 about human rights abuses committed by Indian forces in the Indian occupied Kashmir.
On August 23, 2011, Amnesty International had said that the investigation of graves in three regions also needs to be widened to the entire Indian-held portion of Kashmir. It insisted that all unmarked grave sites must be secured and investigations must be carried out by impartial forensic experts.
In fact, since 1989 when movement of liberation in the Indian-controlled Kashmir accelerated, more than 80,000 people have been killed by Indian forces and police. Indian security forces employed various forms of ethnic cleansing such as unlawful confinement, kidnapping, sieges, curfews, shelling of civilians, destruction of homes, mosques, rape, torture, beating etc. And these inhuman methods contunued till the death of innocent Kashmiris. So unnamed graves include a majority of those Kashmiris who were tortured to death by the Indian security forces and intelligence agencies.
Nevertheless, despite the employment of brutal tactics, war of liberation keeps on going by the Kashmiri freedom fighters.
Nonetheless, gross human rights violations by Indian forces continue, so more unmarked graves could be discovered in the Indian-held Kashmir in furture.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations