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Thursday, 3 December 2009

2600 bodies found in Kashmir graves

On Wednesday, a human rights group released a report “Buried Evidence” here claiming that there are about 2700 unmarked graves spread across 55 villages of North Kashmir’s Bandipora, Baramulla and Kupwara districts. Earlier in 2008, a similar report “Facts Underground” claimed that hundreds of unidentified graves � believed to contain victims of unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other abuses � were found in Jammu and Kashmir following which human rights bodies like Amnesty International expressed serious concern calling for thorough and impartial investigations.

The state has been witness to unabated human rights violations during the last 20 years. Extrajudicial and fake encounter killings, arbitrary detentions, torture, rape, arson, extortion, enforced disappearances and other abuses have marked Kashmir’s tryst with armed conflict. The worst part is that the perpetrators of these crimes have gone unpunished. With no accountability, there has been no deterrent in place. As a result, there has only been an increase in human rights abuses. Though international human rights bodies have been raising the issue regularly, they have not been able to check the violations. The State Human Rights Commission has stood as a helpless organization with its recommendations going unheeded. Infact in some cases, the trampling of human rights has been systematic, meant to crush the rebellion. In many cases inquiries were ordered, which only proved as valuable time buying tools in the hands of the authorities looking to save their skin. The repeated pleas to set up truth and reconciliation commission have also gone begging. Mainstream media has also played a dubious role highlighting the abuses committed by militants while downplaying and more often ignoring all together the numerous violations at the hands of various security agencies. As a result, the Indian public has remained more or less ignorant about the actual situation in the state. They have been presented the picture of a soldier as a messiah fighting bad guys while as the dreaded criminal in the uniform has gone unnoticed. The regimes in New Delhi have used this ignorance to their own good justifying their wrong decisions policies and getting away with their myopic policies regarding the state. This despite the fact that human rights violations as much as the political factors were responsible for fuelling the armed conflict. Now when the gun wielding soldiers knows that there are people sitting in New Delhi to shield his actions and to garner sympathy for him, he knows no bounds of the unbridled power. In the garb of laws like AFSPA and DAA, the men in uniform have committed human rights abuses and gone unpunished. In case of widespread furore, they have termed the frequent violations as aberrations thereby adding insult to the injuries of victims.  Meanwhile, International Peoples Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian administered Kashmir (IPTK) which released the report on Wednesday has demanded independent and transparent investigation into the issue of unmarked mass graves. Only time will tell how seriously the demand is taken up by the state government and New Delhi. However, the fact remains that unless there is accountability for the crimes of the past, human rights violations cannot be ruled out in the future as well.

[editorial -Rising Kashmir- Dec 3, 2009]

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