More than 2,000 corpses have been found buried in several unmarked graves in Indian-administered Kashmir, believed to be victims of the disputed region’s separatist movement, a government human rights commission said in a report.
The graves were found in dozens of villages near the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border between Pakistan and India in the Himalayan region.
“At 38 places visited in north Kashmir, there were 2,156 unidentified dead bodies buried in unmarked graves,” the inquiry report by the Indian government’s Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (J&KSHRC) said. The commission was established by the government in 1997 to investigate human rights violations.
The report – prepared by an 11-member team headed by a senior police superintendent – said that DNA profiling should be used to match unidentified bodies with relatives to resolve the controversy. “The scope for DNA extraction from remains of these unidentified bodies buried in unmarked graves of north Kashmir is still very bright. As the time will go on... chances will be more and more reduced,” the report said.
An independent group based in Srinagar, the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice (IPT), had in 2009 documented unidentified bodies buried in the region’s northern villages.
Indian and international rights groups called for a probe into whether the unmarked graves held bodies of civilians who have ‘disappeared’ as Indian security forces struggled to contain insurgency in the region.
The IPT says 8,000 people have gone missing there during 20 years of insurgency against rule from New Delhi, most of those after they were arrested by Indian security personnel.
The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), which estimates around 10,000 people went missing during nearly two decades of separatist revolt, says many missing people may have ended up in these unmarked graves.
“We appeal to international human rights groups and Indian authorities to identify the people buried,” said Parveena Ahanger, founder and chairperson of the APDP.
International human rights groups have also repeatedly asked the Indian authorities to investigate the unmarked graves.
Indian officials have repeatedly claimed that those buried in unmarked graves were militants – most of those Pakistanis – who were killed in clashes with security forces. They also argue that many of the missing locals had meanwhile crossed to Pakistan to join militant groups. Nearly 50,000 people have been killed in mainly Muslim Kashmir since an insurgency against New Delhi’s rule began in 1989.
On Saturday, Indian soldier shot dead 12 “militants trying to cross from Pakistan into the disputed region.”
Indian security forces in Kashmir have been accused of murdering innocent civilians in staged gun battles and passing them off as militants to earn rewards and promotions.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2011.