04 October 2011

The 'Grave' Reality of Kashmir's Brutal Graves

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Bangalore: The recent Chinese reports of unmarked graves in Kashmir have raised speculations on the possibility of such a reality in the militancy prone state
. China's state run Xinhua news agency has given a 'grave' picture of a brutal ground in the Poonch region of Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian police and army have been accused of carrying headless bodies for buriyal at an undisclosed location. While the Chinese are known to make wild allegations against India from time to time, the recent noises coming from the dragon country may not be completely ignored. Are there indeed such gruesome graves where people facing the death music are buried? Do they really belong to our military?

Disappearing Masses in Kashmir

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Over the last few years, hundreds of people have gone missing in Jammu and Kashmir. They are believed to
be victims of state's separatist revolt. In July this year, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) of J&K had investigated into unmarked graves at Bandipora, Baramulla, Kupwara and Handwara districts across 38 graveyards and verified 2,156 unidentified bodies in unidentified graves. A north Kashmir district police had recently acknowledged the presence of 464 unidentified people in unmarked graves. While the matter awaits an impartial enquiry into the nature of these vanishes, speculations are rife with the government and the separatists pointing fingers at each other.

Bodies of Militants Or Civilians?

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The state and the central government have said the bodies belonged to Pakistani militants who were kil
led by the security forces in the encounters at the line of control (LOC), but separatist groups have blamed the military for committing excesses in the torn state. There are alleged reports that these were Kashmiri civilians killed by Indian security personnel in staged gun battles, and buried in unmarked graves. Who is speaking the truth?

Crimes of Military or Militants?

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The State Human Rights Commission has confirmed that 574 of the unrecognized bodies belonged to the loc
als who vanished involuntarily. International People's Tribunal on Human Rights in Kashmir (IPTK) has also documented a list of 49 bodies, who were all identified as "Pakistani militants" by state, but later investigations by IPTK revealed that 47 of them were locals killed in fake encounters. Were they bodies of people killed by soldiers or militants, or in encounters between both? There should be a wider investigation into the areas of unmarked graves. The government has so far has been negligent in identifying these unclaimed bodies, and seems to be playing behind the curtains.

The Matter Reaches The Prime Minister

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Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been urged to set a time frame for identifying the bodies found in unmarked graves. In a letter to PM, the think tank of Centre for Policy Analysis asked Singh to set up an independent commission to punish the guilty. The letter was signed by activist Anuradha Roy, veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and author Githa Hariharan, voicing concern over the "Central Government's Silence" on the mass graves in Jammu and Kashmir. They also called forth the withdrawal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) that makes the Army unaccountable.

India will have to act soon; else countries like China may take advantage of the 'grave' situation to justify their presence in POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir). The unmarked graves may also weaken India's stand on Kashmir in the International Arena.