Wednesday, September 19, 2018 | 4:49 PM

India asked to probe 2,080 unmarked mass graves in Kashmir

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The state-run human rights commission has told the India to investigate at least 2,080 unmarked mass graves discovered in border areas of the Indian-held Kashmir, Al-Jazeera has reported.

According to the Doha-based media network, the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), a human rights group in Kashmir, told the commission there were 3,844 unmarked graves – 2,717 in Poonch and 1,127 in Rajouri, that lie along the Line of Control (LoC) dividing the disputed territory between Pakistan and India.

The commission, in response, acknowledged the presence of 2,080 unmarked graves, Al-Jazeera reported Firday, asking the Indian government for a comprehensive probe to be completed in six months, including DNA tests of the bodies to compare it with family members of the disappeared.

In 2011, the commission directed India to investigate the mass graves. At the time, a special team from the commission said 2,730 unidentified bodies were buried in 38 sites across northern Kashmir.

“The commission has no hesitation to issue the same directions, which were already issued in the case,” the recent order said.

APDP maintains that 8,000 people have disappeared, saying that Indian forces are staging gun battles to cover up killings. The association welcomed the commission’s latest demand to investigate mass graves in Indian-held Kashmir.

“It is an acknowledgment from the institution that is run by the government. It provides further legal remedies for the family members of missing,” Khurram Parvez from APDP was quoted by Al-Jazeera as having said.

“We have been demanding that there be an independent commission to do a credible probe on the mass graves.”

Parvez said the probe might give an ‘answer’ to families of disappeared who do not know whether their relatives are dead or alive.

“We have done a study of 53 cases for a report where the bodies were exhumed from unidentified graves. It was found that 49 bodies in the graves were of civilians and one was a local militant, three bodies were unidentified. These people were dubbed as foreign militants by the government,” he added.

Since 2011, instead of complying with directions from the human rights commission, the government continues to avoid such an investigation on the pretext it would lead to a “law and order problem” in Kashmir, APDP said in a statement.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution in July 2008 and called on India to ensure independent and impartial investigations into all mass graves, APDP said. 

The Al-Jazeera said that the officials contacted by it declined to comment on Friday.

'Emotional closure'

Tahira Begum, 39, from north Kashmir’s Baramulla whose husband disappeared in 2002, said if the Indian government investigates the graves it would provide “emotional closure” to family members.

“We want to know whether our family members are buried in these graves. At least, we will get an address to mourn,” she was quoted by Al-Jazeera as having said.

Tahira said she had to leave her three sons in an orphanage after her husband disappeared. “My kids would run from school and ask me where their father is. For years, I told them he has gone for work outside. But as time passed, I couldn’t lie to them anymore.”

Her husband went missing after leaving home for work and never returned. “I went everywhere to look for him but failed. I just want an answer – what happened to him,” she added.