SRINAGAR: The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) directed the state government to file a compliance report within six months with regard to 2,080 unmarked graves identified at Poonch and Rajouri, the twin districts of Jammu.
The commission also directed the government to present before it a comprehensive forensic report, including DNA testing, on all the graves within six months.
On 24 October, in response to a petition stating that there are 3,844 unmarked graves in the twin districts of Jammu (2,717 graves in Poonch and 1,127 graves in Rajouri), the Commissioner Secretary to the J&K government had stated in his report that there are 2,080 unmarked graves (1,486 graves in Poonch and 594 unmarked graves in Rajouri).
The SHRC, after examining the state government report dated 30 June 2012 where the government has accepted that there are 2,080 unmarked graves in Poonch and Rajouri, directed the government to file a compliance report.
The recent order is in line with the SHRC’s 2011 judgment in which the Commission had found that in the 38 graveyards it investigated, it documented 2,730 graves, out of which 2,156 graves are still unidentified. A further 574 persons were later identified as local residents of Jammu and Kashmir after having been buried as foreign militants.
The then enquiry was conducted after the Commission’s taking suo-motu cognizance of the research report of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK)/APDP, documenting the discovery of 2,700 unknown, unmarked and mass graves containing 2,943 bodies, out of which 2,373 were unmarked graves, in 62 graveyards spread across areas of north Kashmir’s Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora districts.
Meanwhile, the APDP welcomed the SHRC’s order regarding the existence of unmarked and mass graves in Jammu and Kashmir.
APDP spokesperson Tahira Begum said, “Since 2011, instead of complying with the directions and recommendation of SHRC for investigation into all the unmarked graves, the government continued to avoid undertaking any such investigations on the pretext that the investigation would lead to a law and order problem in J&K, and also argued government’s inability in terms of expertise and infrastructure for such investigation is also lacking.”
Pertinently, the European Parliament adopted a resolution in July 2008 (RC B6-0349/2008) and called on the Government of India to urgently ensure independent and impartial investigations into all suspected sites of mass graves and as an immediate first step to secure the grave sites in order to preserve the evidence.
“Despite widespread international call for investigation into unmarked graves, the Indian State continues to decline any investigation into unmarked and mass graves of Jammu and Kashmir and managed to hoodwink the international community regarding the alarming issue of enforced disappearances and mass graves in Jammu and Kashmir,” said Tahira.
It is relevant to mention that since 2015, the Spanish government has begun a process of exhuming and investigating mass graves in a search for disappeared victims of the country’s civil war (1936-1939) during Franco’s regime. The government of Spain has also enacted a law titled “Law of Historical Memory”. If governments like Spain can take remedial measures and investigate mass graves, why cannot the government of India initiate a similar process, rued Tahira Begum.