Families of the disappeared in Kashmir have petitioned the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) for the conduct of DNA tests on the unmarked graves to ascertain the identity of the persons buried. They have submitted to the commission a list of 507 documented cases of enforced disappearance of people from north Kashmir districts of Baramulla and Bandipora, who they allege are buried in these graves.
“The victims’ families of these disappeared persons fear that their loved ones might be buried in the unmarked graves across Jammu and Kashmir,” the petition submitted by the Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) states. “It is imperative that the government carries out investigations at these unmarked graves, through available means of investigation like DNA testing and other forensic methods,” the petition said.
APDP has sought the SHRC’s intervention to probe all the enlisted cases of disappeared persons and requested the commission to direct the state investigation agencies and concerned police stations to ascertain their whereabouts.
Of the 507 cases of disappearance submitted on Thursday, 30 August, to SHRC, 369 pertain to Baramulla district and 138 to Bandipora.
Earlier, the J&K government had urged SHRC to “dispose of” the case on unmarked graves, seeking it to be left for investigation in future by a yet to be constituted Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In its 27-page Action Taken Report submitted to SHRC, the government said it has mooted the idea of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the state “in the context of the unmarked graves”.
Last year, SHRC had directed the state government to constitute an “independent, duly representative, credible, structured and fully empowered body to investigate and identify the people buried in unmarked graves and to prosecute the perpetrators”.
The government’s position, however, is that a predominant majority of these graves belong to foreign combatants. But at the same time, the government has made it clear that it was open-minded and transparent in the investigation of the human rights issues. “Any complaint or grievance by any individual shall be put to proper scrutiny and investigation to the satisfaction of the complainant,” the report presented to SHRC states.
The government, however, has put the onus on the families of the missing to identify their graves. But the families say it is the responsibility of the government to trace the disappeared. “My son has been missing for the past 20 years. He was taken by the security forces. The government is yet to give an answer to me and to thousands of mothers like me whose sons were similarly taken by the soldiers never to be returned,” chairperson of APDP Parveena Ahanger told Tehelka. “Our children were not killed on the border in encounters. They were taken in front of their families by personnel from various security agencies. Government should haul up these agencies and tell them where they have kept our children. They will certainly be knowing it and also the graves in which they have buried them,” she added.
Riyaz Wani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.