Graveyards of democracy

n a contemporaneous world society the political philosophers were forced to exhort the concept of democracy because an increasing number of villainous regimes were abusing power over their subjects.  That concept is becoming apparent in autocratic regimes where in the end people will win over and prevail.  In Kashmir all brands of democracy are used as medium of governance and each one has very sharp edges that cut through the bare lives of citizenry.   

There are those who are killed blatantly and buried in desolation and there are those who live and walk about ghosting the towns and cities of Kashmir not knowing where two yards of an empty crevice in mother Earth will be their final abode.  People who escape and want to live, struggle to find avenues of happiness and security of life.   People taken in custody find circumstances such that they prefer solace in the cool depths of Earth rather than the outside horrors in environs that make their suffering unbearable.  All this is happening in the name of political struggle for emancipation and freedom.   What is the relationship between peremptory governance and creation of an atmosphere of free killing fields of innocent human mortals whose remains become burden of flowing rivers and unknown graveyards and democracy?

It is this latter category we dwell on as the thread in our story.    A description of modus operandi used to kill people makes a gruesome horror documentary that will make Dracula feel humbled.  Capture, disappear, torture and murder is common.    Make them run for life and shoot them from behind is another method.  The dead bodies are used as evidence of victory over imaginary militants.  They also play cat and mouse game with the victim and then kill him.  

Rafiq Hussain Nengroo  on 6 Sep 2011 in Goonga Pulwama was  caught by the forces (CRPF) in a chase and then beaten to death.   Stage managed and fake encounters always produce some dead bodies.   One atrocity condemned by Indian Human Rights Organizations and forbidden by Indian constitutional statutes is enforced disappearances.  The Jammu & Kashmir Coalition Of Civil Society (JKCCS) a prestigious human rights group have compiled figures of disappeared people at 8000.  These figures have been partly endorsed by Indian Official statements and Association of the Parents of the Disappeared People (APDP).

In the meantime graves of unidentified human remains have been discovered.  This finding has now been linked to the disappeared people.  Independent Peoples Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice (IPTK) documented 2,373 unidentified bodies in these graves.  In determinism theory the correlation becomes too close to ignore and Omar Abdullah the Chief Minister of J&K was obliged to offer a Truth & Reconciliation Commission.    Economic & Political Weekly (Sept. 5) featured the article Buried Injustice that calls for investigation.  A serendipitous decree came from the state wing of the National Human Rights Commission in response to an application under Right to Information Act and confirmed the number of disappeared at 2156 and 574 of those killed in fake encounters.  On graves, the police admit to a figure of 464 and buried in them are unknown people and in their Fist Information Reports recorded as ‘Encounter Killings’ (EK).  Endorsing this version, the army statement put a figure of EK at 574 of foreign militants.    In Lolab Kashmir, 38 graves were found after the so called encounters identifying them as unknown foreign militants. 

In Times of India blog, S A Aiyar a prominent activist of India, (28 August 2011) called these graves as ‘Mass Murders’ saying that ‘Kashmir has eroded our ability to feel horror.  Why are we so passé  in human rights norms.  Dr Angana Chatterji  very well known writer of India described the graves as ‘ grisly dirt, rubble, thick grass covered the bodies in hillside graves’ .   The news has flashed across the world with shocking rejoinders against India.  Lydia Polgreen in New York Times of 23 Aug, 2011 revealed that the bodies were bullet ridden, making an obvious inference that they were killed.  The International Human Rights Organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned these atrocities saying ‘thousands lost in Kashmir mass graves and calling on India to investigate.  (Death ends  Fun; blog).  The ‘graves in Kashmir’ issue was debated in Norwegian parliament, stating the nation describe it as ‘killing fields of Kashmir’ (VOA).  In European Parliament the atrocity was described as signifying ‘mass terror’.  Under rule 115 of ‘Rule of Procedures’ listed ‘Whereas hundreds of mass graves discovered since 2006 reported in 18 villages in Uri district alone are believed to contain the remains of victims .  

A vivid reporting by Eric Margolis a prominent columnist (KT Sep. 9, 2011) described the wanton attitude with hardly a peep by India’s allies (USA and UK) on this grisly atrocity when they raised hue and cry over civilian deaths in Libya, Iran and Syria.  There is massive literature on mass graves in Cambodia, Sudan and Bosnia.    Special tribunals were set up by International Criminal Court (ICC) and culprits of such atrocities like Karadawitch or Milosowitch and punishments administered.  The sovereign country of Serbia was held to account for not hunting them out and their membership of European Union deferred to such time they produced the culprits of mass graves in Bosnia.  Mass graves in Libya have prompted ICC to serve a warrant of arrest on Gadhaffi.   The only requital offered in Kashmir is reconciliation.  

The premise that the world is now working on is finding the remains of people subject to Enforced Disappearance in the graves discovered in the hills of Kashmir.  The forces deployed in Kashmir disappeared people after arbitrary arrests and having such a huge surplus material of human dead bodies they disposed them by getting them buried.   In Baramulla district local grave diggers were employed to dig make shift graves and bury bodies with no names.  The grave diggers have made statements that in their own time they offered last rites prayers before burial.  For them it was enough to say that they are foreign militants and were killed in action.    In such large numbers this violation would qualify to a definition of genocide.  One such debate ensued recently on NDTV (6 Sept. 2011).  On open disclosure of anonymous graves the Police admit to only 464 graves against 2,373 a larger number verified and documented by the International People’s tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK) from eye witnesses.    There is evidence of torture seen on the bodies that denotes their custodial ordeal prior to their ultimate fate and rules out an encounter.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission TRC proposed by the government is intended to compensate the relatives of victims.  The TRC  in South Africa has a commendable story when Adrian Fox Ex. Defense Minister  insisted vehemently that he wants to wash the feet of the ANC worker he had ordered to be tortured.   The poor worker was embarrassed and refused to have his feet washed by Fox and just forgave him for his crime.   In Kashmir the singular atrocity of killing handpicked individuals in cold blood, in fake encounters, after arbitrary arrests cannot be compared to South African apartheid violations however abhorrent they were. 

  The only parallel that can be drawn is atrocities by  Pol Pot in Cambodia, Milosowitch in Bosnia or Gadhaffi in Libya.   No truth commission will absolve the actual crimes committed.  The only credible investigation initiated by SHRC was the DNA profiling of the dead body remains, already found as unsuitable samples by Hyderabad Forensic Science Lab.   This is not the standard method any civilized country would go about investigating discovery of a mass grave let alone a single dead body.  The mass grave in Liberty County (USA) is in the hands of federal agency and murderers will be nabbed and hanged.  If however evidence of mass murders was found in Chechnya,  Nafusa Sudan, Mexico or Libya  and treated as a human rights problem then there has to be an acknowledgement of an open war with the people of that place by the perpetrators against the victims. 

In Kashmir the forces that have perpetrated these crimes are still the guardians of the security of the people and bastions of law and order.   They would have to justify each disappearance and each killing on the basis that it was in the interests of the state to kill people,  otherwise each crime is an offence that must be punished.   DNA profiling is a passé and at best an evasive measure.  There are international procedures of investigation detailed in the book ‘The Scientific Investigations of Mass Graves’ Cambridge University Press (2011) to establish the source of the crime and analysis of the human remains.   In the end if there is political will there is only one way out to prevent any such atrocity or any crimes against humanity in future.  

As a final solution accept all administrative, trade or appellate jurisdiction of  institutions extended  from India or Pakistan in both parts of Jammu & Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan  as normal parts of resident population and adopted in local establishments.  The important caveat must be to ensure that the last armed personal in uniform or those not in uniform are returned home and  leave  all parts of the State for good.   In that event there will never be an atrocity and never a cause of conflict within the State.  The Northern borders will be secured by a fresh round of treaties and agreements based on international laws.  This is a subject I will be prepared to debate at length with any interested party at any moment of time.

( The author can be contacted at majidsirajuk@ yahoo.com www.kashmir-caselaw.com)