Human Rights

Evidence of extra-judicial killings in J&K

Srinagar: In Kashmir, 2,700 unmarked graves containing over 2,943 bodies across 55 villages in the three districts of Bandipore, Baramulla and Kupwara have been found.

The Srinagar-based human rights group, International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice for Kashmir (IPTK) in its report claimed that the graves could be of those missing from the custody of Indian troops. Rights groups put their numbers at ten thousand. The report is based on research done between November 2006 and November 2009 and has been authored by prominent human rights activists of India and occupied Kashmir, Angana P. Chatterji, Parvez Imroz, Gautam Navlakha, Zahir-Ud-Din, Mihir Desai, and Khurram Parvez.

The 112-page dossier, titled ‘Buried Evidence’ was released at a press conference on 2 December by Angna Chatterjee, convener of the group. The report documents in considerable detail how the actions of Indian military and paramilitary forces in Kashmir inflict terror on the local population, killed through extra-judicial means.

The IPTK said it examined 50 encounter killings. Forty-nine of the victims were labeled as militants or foreign insurgents by the troops. “Forty-seven were found killed in fake encounters; one was identified as a local militant. We don’t know who the remaining two are,” said an IPTJ office-bearer. In one such case, the troops claimed to have killed four Pakistani terrorists on April 29, 2007 and identified them as Abu-Safayan, Abu-Hafiz, Abu-Sadiq and Abu-Ashraf. “Three of the four male bodies were buried in Sedarpora village in the Kandi area, Kupwara district. The three were later identified as residents of Kashmir, killed in fake encounters. The real names of the deceased were Reyaz Ahmad Bhat of Kalashpora, Manzoor Ahmad Wagay of Letar, Pulwama and Sartaj Ahmad Ganai, resident of Tikipora, Shopian district. The identity of the fourth has not been ascertained,” the report says.

The bodies of Manzoor and Sartaj were exhumed and identified, while Reyaz was identified through a complex process, the report says, adding that Reyaz and Manzoor were ordinary civilians but Sartaj was a militant.

Traditionally, all graves in Kashmir are marked and the epitaphs mention the name and residence of those buried. The findings came a year and a half after the Association of Parents of Disappeared People (APDP) released a report, titled “Facts under Ground”, that said there were 940 unmarked graves in just one tehsil, Uri, of Baramulla.

“A full-scale investigation must be commissioned under provisions of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952, and/or other relevant laws, to inquire into the disappearances within a stipulated and reasonable timeframe. We also note that certain freedom fighters who have surrendered to the security forces have been made to disappear in violation of Habeas Corpus, and that the chain of violations in these cases should be investigated”, the report says.

The detailed press note issued in Srinagar at the press conference is as follows:

BURIED EVIDENCE is authored by Angana P. Chatterji, Parvez Imroz, Gautam Navlakha, Zahir-Ud- Din, Mihir Desai, and Khurram Parvez.

Dr. Angana P. Chatterji is Convener IPTK and Professor, Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies.

Advocate Parvez Imroz is Convener IPTK and Founder, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society.

Gautam Navlakha is Convener IPTK and Editorial Consultant, Economic and Political Weekly.

Zahir-Ud-Din is Convener IPTK and Vice-President, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society.

Advocate Mihir Desai is Legal Counsel IPTK and Lawyer, Mumbai High Court and Supreme Court of India.

Khurram Parvez is Liaison IPTK and Programme Coordinator, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society.]

The graveyards investigated by IPTK entomb bodies of those murdered in encounter and fake encounter killings between1990-2009. These graves include bodies of extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions, as well as massacres committed by the Indian military and paramilitary forces.
Of these graves, 2,373 (87.9 percent) were unnamed. Of these graves, 154 contained two bodies each and 23 contained more than two cadavers. Within these 23 graves, the number of bodies ranged from 3 to 17.

A mass grave may be identified as containing more than one, and usually unidentified, human cadaver. Scholars refer to mass graves as resulting from crimes against humanity, war crimes, or genocide. If the intent of a mass grave is to execute death with impunity, with intent to kill more than one, and to forge an unremitting representation of death, then, to that extent, the graves in Bandipora, Baramulla, and Kupwara are part of a collective burial by India’s military and paramilitary, creating a landscape of “mass burial.”

Post-death, the bodies of the victims were routinely handled by military and paramilitary personnel, including the local police. The bodies were then brought to the “secret graveyards” primarily by personnel of the Jammu and Kashmir Police. The graves were constructed by local gravediggers and caretakers, buried individually when possible, and specifically not en mass, in keeping with Islamic religious sensibilities.

The graves, with few exceptions, hold bodies of men. Violence against civilian men has expanded spaces for enacting violence against women. Women have been forced to disproportionately assume the task of care-giving to disintegrated families and undertake the work of seeking justice following disappearances and deaths. These graveyards have been placed next to fields, schools, and homes, largely on community land, and their effect on the local community is daunting.

The Indian Armed Forces and the Jammu and Kashmir Police routinely claim the dead buried in unknown and unmarked graves to be “foreign militants/terrorists.” They claim that the dead were unidentified foreign or Kashmiri militants killed while infiltrating across the border areas into Kashmir or travelling from Kashmir into Pakistan to seek arms training. Official state discourse conflates cross-border militancy with present nonviolent struggles by local Kashmiri groups for political and territorial self-determination, portraying local resistance as “terrorist” activity.

Exhumation and identification have not occurred in sizeable cases. Where they have been undertaken, in various instances, “encounter” killings across Kashmir have, in fact, been authenticated as “fake encounter” killings. In instances where, post-burial, bodies have been identified, two methods have been used prevalently. These are 1. Exhumation; and 2. Identification through the use of photographs.

The report also examines 50 alleged “encounter” killings by Indian security forces in numerous districts in Kashmir. Of these persons, 39 were of Muslim descent; 4 were of Hindu descent; 7 were not determined. Of these cases, 49 were labelled militants/foreign insurgents by security forces and one body that was drowned. Of these, following investigations, 47 were found killed in fake encounters and one was identifiable as a local militant.

IPTK has been able to study only partial areas within 3 of 10 districts in Kashmir, and our findings and very preliminary evidence point to the severity of existing conditions. If independent investigations were to be undertaken in all 10 districts, it is reasonable to assume that the 8,000+ enforced disappearances since 1989 would correlate with the number of bodies in unknown, unmarked, and mass graves.

The methodical and planned use of killing and violence in Indian-administered Kashmir constitutes crimes against humanity in the context of an ongoing conflict. The Indian state’s governance of Indian-administered Kashmir requires the use of discipline and death as techniques of social control. Discipline is affected through military presence, surveillance, punishment, and fear. Death is disbursed through “extrajudicial” means and those authorized by law. These techniques of rule are used to kill, and create fear of not just death but of murder.

Mass and intensified extrajudicial killings have been part of a sustained and widespread offensive by the military and paramilitary institutions of the Indian state against civilians of Jammu and Kashmir. IPTK asks that the evidence put forward in this report be examined, verified, and reframed as relevant by credible, independent, and international bodies, and that international institutions ask that the Government of India comply with such investigations.

We note that the international community and institutions have not examined the supposition of crimes against humanity in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. We note that the United Nations and its member states have remained ineffective in containing and halting the adverse consequences of the Indians state’s militarization in Kashmir.

We ask that evidence from unknown, unmarked, and mass graves in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir be used to seek justice, through the sentencing of criminals and other judicial and social processes. As well, the existence of these graves, and how they came to be, may be understood as indicative of the effects and issue of militarization, and the issues pertaining to militarization itself must be addressed seriously and expeditiously.

The violences of militarization in Indian-administered Kashmir, between 1989-2009, have resulted in 70,000+ deaths, including through extrajudicial or “fake encounters” executions, custodial brutality, and other means. In the enduring conflict, 6, 67,000 military and paramilitary personnel continue to act with impunity to regulate movement, law, and order across Kashmir. The Indian state itself, through its legal, political, and military actions, has demonstrated the existence of a state of continuing conflict within Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 January 2010 on page no. 11

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