By Sajjad Shaukat
The question of unmarked graves which shows shocking brutalities of Indian security forces in the Indian-Held Kashmir is appearing with more details which were concealed by New Delhi. In this respect, in its recent report which was also published by several Chinese newspapers, China’s leading News Agency Xinhua has unearthed more gruesome details on world-stunning unmarked graves in Poonch, in the Indian occupied Kashmir.
While quoting reliable local sources, the report disclosed 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.”
Xinhua’s report said, “Burials are carried out quietly without involving the local people…burials of those killed by army and police usually stoke protests in the region against police and army with the demand of end to New Delhi’s rule.”
On September 27 this year Amnesty International said that lawmakers in Indian-held Kashmir should discuss the recent discovery of unnamed graves containing more than 2,000 bullet-riddled bodies and should demand an independent panel be set up to identify the bodies, noting the same recommendation made by the Jammu-Kashmir State Human Rights Commission which had yet to be acted upon. It repeatedly emphasised, indicating, “The state government must also ensure that all past and current allegations of enforced disappearances are promptly, thoroughly, independently and impartially investigated”, adding that anyone found responsible should be prosecuted.
It is notable that after widespread allegations of human rights abuses in the Indian occupied Kashmir by the army, paramilitary and police, a commission was set up in 1997. However, Indian Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has officially acknowledged in its report in August this year that innocent civilians killed in the two-decade conflict may have been buried in unmarked graves.
According to the report of the Indian commission, “Hundreds of unmarked graves in Kashmir hold more than 2,000 bullet-riddled bodies that may include innocent victims, despite police claims that they were militants fighting Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan territory.”
Indian Commission’s report indicated, “2,156 unidentified bodies were found in mass graves in three northern mountainous regions, while 574 other bodies were found in the graves have been identified as local residents.” The probe said it noted 851 unknown bodies in Baramulla, 14 in Bandipore, 14 in Handwara and 1277 in Kupwara. While concealing actual details, it also acknowledged 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 have been emphasising that all these bodies were of militant fighters—claimed by police when they were handed over to villages for burial.
While, rights groups have disclosed that more than 8,000 people have disappeared, accusing government forces of staging fake gunbattles to cover up killings. The groups also revealed that suspected rebels have been arrested and never heard from again.
Notably, 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 estimates around 10,000 people went missing during 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 claiming that unnamed graveyards “entomb bodies of those, murdered in fake encounters and arbitrary executions.”
Earlier, 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, “All unmarked grave sites must be secured and investigations carried out by impartial forensic experts.”
In fact, since 1989 when movement of liberation in the Indian-controlled Kashmir accelerated, more than 70,000 people have been killed by Indian forces and police. Indian security forces employed various techniques of ethnic cleansing such as unlawful confinement, kidnapping, sieges, curfews, shelling of civilians, the destruction of homes and mosques, rape, torture, beating etc. And these inhuman methods contunued till the death of innocent Kashmiris. Besides, a number of unarmed individutals were killed by the Indian military, para-military troops and police in the fake encounters. So unnamed graves include a majority of those Kashmiris who were tortured to death by the security forces or directly killed by the Indian secret agency RAW.
It is of particular attention that on June 28, 2010, BBC reported, “Three men went missing in Indian-administered Kashmir in April…but some time later 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.”
Over the 20 years of violence in Jammu and Kashmir, Human Rights Watch has documented numerous failures to ensure protection of human rights. It has called for the repeal of laws such as the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act. These laws provide the armed forces with extraordinary powers to search, detain, and use lethal force, leading to numerous human rights violations. They also provide immunity for security forces. Prosecutions of security force personnel, even where the facts are well established, are rare.
In the recent past, WikiLeaks have also pointed out the involvement of Indian Army in extrajudicial killings and other gross human rights violations in the Jammu and Kashmir. The related-cable has urged the US to secretly divert UN attention towards the genocide of innocent civilians at the hands of Indian forces.
It seems that non-condemnation of these Indian acts of massive human rights violations by the so-called civilised international community has further encouraged New Delhi to step-up its brutalities on the armless Kashmiri masses. Indian authorities are not willing to talk with Kashmiri people on political grounds. India perhaps reached to a conclusion that only bullet is the right way of dealing with Kashmiris, demanding their right of self-determination. Surprisingly, Indian successive governments are trying to ignore the dynamics of the Kashmiris movement for the freedom from the Indian alien rule.
Reliable sources suggest that India has partially withdrawn the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which was introduced in 1990. But it has only been amended in black and white, because in practice, it continues as Indian armed forces have totally failed in crushing the liberation movement of kashmiris with perennial wave of state terrorism.
There can be no lasting political settlement in Kashmir unless human rights abuses that have fueled the ongoing uprising are addressed. Surprisingly, despite the assurances by New Delhi and Indian-puppet regime of the Kashmir so as to take punitive action against the concerned security personale with a view to stoping humanitarian crisis in the occupied areas, there has been no policy change in the repressive activities of Indian security forces as schocking brutalities and human rights violations in Kashmir continue unabated.
Nevertheless, the Indian government’s disregard for human rights in Jammu and Kashmir means that in practice, people reportedly died in custody and the whereabouts of the disappeared persons continue to be unknown. Therefore, more unmarked graves could be discovered from the Indian-held Kashmir in furture as with the help of local people, various human rights organisations and media are making strenous efforts in this matter.
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