Srinagar, Dec. 1: The silence of unmarked graves has been broken in Kashmir.
The International Peoples Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice for Kashmir (IPTJ) has come out with a report that claims there are 2,700 unmarked graves containing over 2,943 bodies across 55 villages in three districts Bandipora, Baramulla and Kupwara.
The IPTJ claims many of them could be the graves of the men allegedly missing from the custody of security forces. Rights groups put their numbers at more than 8,000, although the state government claims it is far less and that most of them have gone across the LoC to receive arms training.
The report is based on research between November 2006 and November 2009. The graves have sprung up at different intervals during the 20 years of turmoil, said the IPTJs Khurram Parvez.
The report, titled Buried Evidence, will be released in Srinagar tomorrow by Angna Chatterjee, the IPTJ convener who is a rights activist and anthropology professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies. The Telegraph has accessed some of the findings of the 112-page dossier.
The report documents in considerable detail how the actions of military and paramilitary forces in Kashmir inflict terror on the local population, disbursed through extra-judicial means, the IPTJ said.
The IPTJ claims it examined 50 alleged encounter killings. Forty-nine of the victims were labelled militants/foreign insurgents by the security forces.
Forty-seven were found killed in fake encounters, one was identified as a local militant. We dont know who the remaining two are, said an IPTJ office-bearer. In one such case, security forces claimed to have killed four foreign 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, 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 come 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.
The APDP later joined hands with other rights activists to spread the investigations to other parts of Kashmir before and then became part of the IPTJs exercise.
The official stand on the unmarked graves is that these are of foreign militants who have been killed in encounters with the forces.
Kashmir police chief Farooq Ahmad, though, sounded cautious. I have not seen the report. I will react only after I see that.
IPTJ has also demanded that details of any investigations into the disappearances should be made public.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 militants who have surrendered to the security forces have been disappeared in violation of Habeas Corpus, and that the chain of violations in these cases should be investigated, the report says.