Kashmir – Press statement on Unmarked/mass graves, enforced disappearances and the unabated cover ups

December 24, 2013

ASSOCIATION OF PARENTS OF DISAPPEARED PERSONS

Press Release: 22 December 2013

A section of media recently gave an impression that the Argentinean government had secretly probed the mass graves in Kashmir. As the organization primarily responsible for research, campaign and international lobbying on the phenomenon of mass graves and enforced disappearances, we clarify that the Argentinean government has never directly, or indirectly, probed the mass graves of Kashmir. In 2008, the European parliament through its resolution expressed support for the investigations on mass graves and enforced disappearances in Jammu and Kashmir. It was followed by the statements of support by Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC). Now, in a similar manner we urge the Latin American countries to also publicly offer their support to pressurize Government of India to investigate the phenomenon of enforced disappearances and mass and unmarked graves in Jammu and Kashmir.

On 20th December, the Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police, Ashok Prasad while responding to media queries on the issue of ‘secret probe’ of the Argentinean government on mass graves in Jammu and Kashmir, reiterated the lies trumpeted by the government. Previously Omar Abdullah also had stated that there are no mass graves and that the phenomenon of unmarked graves in rural areas of Kashmir is normal.

This misinformation is a part of the ongoing State attempts to obfuscate the truth and confuse the public opinion, locally and internationally. DGP Prasad and other government functionaries audaciously want the people of Jammu and Kashmir to forget the tyranny they have suffered and witnessed, besides of course the inquiry conducted by the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) followed by a judgment in 2011 which vindicated the research of APDP regarding mass graves and unmarked graves.

The reality is that the Indian State is criminally culpable under international law for the existence of 7000 unmarked graves across 5 districts (Baramulla, Kupwara, Bandipora, Poonch and Rajouri) of Jammu and Kashmir. In our December 2009 report, “Buried Evidence” we asserted that besides unmarked graves there are several mass graves as well. As no defense or justification exists, the government has chosen to not respond to facts but rather confuse the issue by talking in abstractions. DGP Prasad and other apologists of State atrocities in Jammu and Kashmir should visit and probe the mass grave at Kanenaar Kalarus, Kupwara where 17 unidentified persons are buried in one grave. They must also probe the mass grave at the main Kalaroos town graveyard where 5 bodies are buried in one grave, the mass grave at Nullah Nigley, Leyan Marg Gulmarg, Baramulla where 12 unidentified persons are buried, the mass grave at Gharkote, Baramulla where 16 persons are buried in one grave, the mass grave at Wilgam Kupwara where 5 skulls of unidentified persons are buried in one grave, the mass graves at Kichama graveyard where many graves contain more than one body and many more places, but clearly the will to do so does not exist. One of the unmarked graves at Bimyar, Chahal in Uri contains a bullet ridden dead body of a six month old baby girl.

Unmarked graves, as per APDP and SHRC, are those graves where bullet ridden unidentified bodies were buried by locals after being brought by armed forces or police. The police in many cases filed FIRs, as for receiving the monetary incentives for killing the ‘militants’ it would be a requirement. The information acquired by APDP through RTI further corroborates the fact that most of the people killed in the alleged encounters are still unidentified and police have never carried out any investigations to identity the bodies and the actual circumstances of the deaths. According to RTI information, in Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora districts there are 2683 FIRs filed where unidentified people being killed in alleged encounters have been buried in unmarked graves without maintaining any identification profile of these unidentified dead persons, and neither conducting any investigations after filing of these 2683 FIRs.

So far we have also furnished the records of 53 exhumations of those who were buried in unmarked graves and were claimed at the time of their killing as foreign militants. The exhumation records prove that 49 out of the total 53 exhumations turned out to be local civilians and not the foreign militants, while as one was a local Kashmiri militant and remaining three continue to be unidentified persons. Similarly the inquiry conducted by the Police Investigation Wing of the SHRC also established that 574 persons after being buried as unidentified and foreign militants were later identified as local residents. It is pertinent to mention here that the investigations of the infamous Ganderbal fake encounter led to the exhumation of 5 persons who otherwise were claimed by army and police as foreign militants and monetary rewards were sought by the accused personnel. The trial of that case is ongoing. Similarly in 2010 the exhumations of three persons in Macchil uncovered the mystery behind the disappearance of three youths from Nadihal, Baramulla.

In this context it is clear that all unmarked graves may not contain the bodies of militants. Therefore thorough investigations, including DNA tests and forensic examinations, of all those buried in unmarked graves, and relatives of the disappeared, would help in ascertaining the identities of these unidentified persons and the process may also help us in finding the answers to the questions of the family members of the disappeared.

Government officials presently involved in refusing, delaying or subverting the investigations in mass graves, unmarked graves and enforced disappearances in Jammu and Kashmir, are only implicating themselves in a future case of cover up.

Spokesperson