After the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) report last year that put the number of unmarked graves in four districts of Valley at 2,156, Jammu and Kashmir Government’s Home department submitted additional findings on Tuesday 2 July. This report, a result of the government investigation conducted on directions of SHRC, has revealed that there are 2,080 more graves in Poonch and Rajouri districts. However, the government says that these graves are those of unidentified militants of foreign origin.
According to the government report 3,431 militants have been killed in these districts over the past two decades and of them 2,080 were unidentified foreign militants. The report which was presented to the SHRC on Tuesday, states that the bodies of the militants who were not identified, were handed over to local residents who carried out the burials according to religious rites. “The police could not prepare and maintain the identification profile of these slain militants as most of them were foreign terrorists and were operating under code names”, stated the report.
State Human Rights Commission in its 2 July 2011 report had confirmed the existence of 2,156 unmarked in four districts of the Valley. That report was prepared after a three-year inquiry by an 11-member team led by the police wing of SHRC.
The SHRC investigation had focused on the four North Kashmir districts of Baramulla, Kupwara, Handwara and Bandipora. The report became a starting point for the public demand for a new investigation to find about the identity of the buried and the circumstances of their death, a formidable task considering the number of the graves and the diverse case scenarios under which the deaths could have taken place.
In September last year, the SHRC admitted an application by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) about presence of more than 3,844 unmarked graves in Poonch and Rajouri and directed the J&K government to investigate into it and submit report. This was the report presented on Tuesday 2 July .
According to the report identifying foreign militants has always been a problem in the counter-insurgency operations and hence they are categorised as “unidentified persons”. “However, it is clear beyond doubt that all those killed were combatants. In all the incidents, the bodies of the slain militants who were locals were identified, and handed over to their legal heirs for the final rites,” the report states.
Riyaz Wani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.