Human Rights

Why different parameters for mass graves in J&K

News of detection of mass graves in any parts of the world provides ample ammo to keep the political pot boiling. But in India it is not more than another report or story.  Has the report of findings of mass graves in Kashmir surprised anyone at all? The Jammu-Kashmir State Human Rights Commission in its recent report has said that 2,156 unidentified bodies were found in graves in three northern mountainous regions, while 574 other bodies in the graves were identified as local residents.

The report from the Commission is said to be the first instance of official admission that civilians killed in the decade’s long conflict may have been buried in unmarked graves. Political parties and various human rights groups are demanding an independent probe to ascertain the truth. Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir has said that the Commission should be assigned to probe each and every killing in the state in order to find out whether the killings were carried out by militants or security forces. Human Rights Watch has asked India to conduct an independent and impartial probe into the unmarked graves found in the states.  The Amnesty International in its recent public statement issued said that the police report concludes that there is every probability that the remaining over 2100 unidentified graves may contain the corpses of [persons subject to] enforced disappearances. The report further clarifies that the only way to negate such a claim is to study the DNA profiles of the unidentified dead bodies and warns that in the absence of such tests, “It has to be assumed/presumed that [the] State wants to remain silent deliberately to hide its Human Rights violations”. Further, Amnesty International welcomes the report based on investigations in four districts of north Kashmir, but reiterates the call for the Government of India to initiate thorough investigations into unmarked graves throughout the state. All unmarked grave sites must be secured and investigations carried out by impartial forensic experts in line with the UN Model Protocol on the disinterment and analysis of skeletal remains.

Amnesty International also calls upon the Government of Jammu and Kashmir to ensure the safety of the 62 witnesses who have given statements to the police team and ensure that they, along with relatives of the disappeared persons, local human rights defenders and members of the police investigation team are not pressured, intimidated or subject to any reprisals. PDP leader Mahbooba Mufti has demanded concrete action and has also called for identification of the unknown martyrs buried in these graves. Omar Abdullah in view of growing protests has promised appropriate action upon the final recommendations from the officials of human rights watchdog. Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar in his article in TOI on 28 August has mentioned that most countries would have treated report of mass graves as major news, but our media barely took notice. Bored with unending tales of human rights violations in Kashmir, our media saw Anna Hazare’s fast and even Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s pregnancy as more newsworthy.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 September 2011 on page no. 11

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