Horrendous findings

The discovery of 38 unmarked graveyard sites across North Kashmir, containing unidentified bodies of over 2, 000 persons, by the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) is shocking as well as startling. That this report of the SHRC is based on the verified findings of its own team of investigators leaves nothing to question its veracity. To nobody’s surprise, however, the first reaction of the state government has been that the report is ‘yet to be seen’ by the concerned authorities in the administration. This casual remark betrays inherent callousness within the system which has become the hallmark of the establishment over the past three decades. It is because of this systemic-affliction that custodial killings continue unabated, innocent citizens continue to be imprisoned under draconian laws and the culture of impunity and unaccountability continues to flourish with active political patronage. SHRC has quite rightly pointed out that unrestrained resort to draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Public Safety Act (PSA) and Disturbed Area Act (DAA) has been fostering the culture of impunity leading to extra-judicial killings on such an alarming scale. This conclusion is obviously based on sound logic.

SHRC findings point to the probability of more such unmarked graveyards existing in other parts of Kashmir. Earlier also several human rights groups had been saying so. SHRC has formulated its findings after thorough investigations made in each case by the commission’s own team of expert investigators. The commission is yet to conduct similar exercise in North and Central Kashmir areas.

Read together with the detailed precise information coming from the aggrieved families of the victims of carnage, the SHRC report amounts to a chargesheet which no civilised state can afford to ignore. The commission has advised the government to act upon the report immediately and arrange proper DNA testing of the unidentified bodies discovered in the 38 unmarked graveyards across North Kashmir. Necessary details obtained from the commission’s own investigation have been furnished along with the report. Sensational discovery of the bodies of innocent victims of state terrorism from graveyards in Pathribal and, more recently, in Machhil and Surankote should be enough to convince the state government and motivate it to act upon the SHRC report. It is shameful that the government should have to be pushed into action over an issue of enormous gravity.

No civilised country or system can afford to sleep over such shocking revelation brought into limelight by its own apparatus.Thousands of families of persons who have disappeared during the last three decades have been running from pillar to post to locate their missing ones after they were snatched away by the ‘security’ agencies of the state. The SHRC findings make out a compelling case for immediate action. One by one, aggrieved family members are coming forward with more details, after hearing about the SHRC findings. Even those of them who may have lost hope of finding alive their missing ones are entitled to claim mortal remains now that the unmarked graveyards have turned out to be a shocking reality.

Identification of bodies, numbering over 2,000, should be the foremost task of the government. DNA testing should start without delay. This method has been tried successfully in Pathribal and Machhil cases. The state cannot escape its obligation to ensure at least a decent dignified burial of the victims of repression. SHRC has done immense good to its own credibility by preparing a comprehensive report that goes to prove what was, otherwise also, known to the people in Kashmir and even beyond.