Why Uri villagers again refused to bury militants

By Asim Shah/ Mushtaq Ahmad
Uri/ Baramulla: When the police dug up three graves in Bonyar, Uri, with a JCB for the three militants killed in a 48-hour-long gunfight in Pampore on Monday, the local residents protested and filled the holes. This was for the second time the people of this area declined to bury militant.
Early this month, villagers of Badian, which is about 5km from Bonyar, refused to bury the three militants killed by the government forces in Hajin. The refusal is in stark contrast to the pro-militant sentiment in the Valley. A couple of months ago, residents of two villages in south Kashmir fought with each other over the body of Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Abu Qasim—each wanted the ‘honour of having him in their local graveyards’.
Raja Shahid, who is sarpanch of Trikanjan in Bonyar, where the government forces have been burying unidentified militants (after declaring them as foreigners), explains why.
“In 2008, bodies of four militants were buried by the army with the help of a JCB vehicle. The graves were no better than pits. It appalled us all but we couldn’t do anything about it,” he said.
“The army and police would come during night to bury the dead militants. There are so many graves that have been dug in this manner. In Gagarhill village there are about 12 to 14 graves, in Jabdi village five to six, in Badian four graves, in Peer Bali four graves and in Banali two to three graves,” he said.
Ghulam Mohammad, a former army porter, told Kashmir Reader that in 2013 army buried seven unidentified persons in one big pit that was dug with the help of a JCB vehicle. (According to Islamic custom, a grave is dug according to laid down precepts)
“No funeral prayer was offered. In another incident they buried six unidentified militants in one grave in Trikanjan, near the Rest House. Again no prayers were said for the dead men,” he said.
Ghulam Mohammad said he himself used to bury the bodies army or police would bring. He had buried bodies of four militants in 2013.
“Like others I am angry. Those people were buried without following rituals of our religion,” he said, while recalling a “shocking incident” that occurred in 2012.
“Dogs had dug out remains of a few militants from some graves in Uri. There was an agitation against that incident and so many people, including myself, were deeply disturbed. I left the porter job thereafter,” Ghulam Mohammad said.
Mohammad Sharif Sheikh, another porter from the village, told Kashmir Reader that in Paroo Sector (which is a garrison area) there are several unidentified graves.
“In the past it used to be easy for army to come during night and bury dead bodies of militants in our village and adjacent areas but nowadays we raise our voice and it has become hard for police and army personal to bury dead bodies in secrecy,” Sheikh added.
When contacted, station house officer of Boniyar Police Station, Feroz Ahmad, dismissed the accounts of the villagers as “false”.
“We only use JCB vehicles when the land is rocky and we bury them with the help of local people who offer proper funeral prayers. We also ensure that there is three to four meters of distance between each grave,” he said.
Pampore fidayeen buried in Sheeri
Jammu and Kashmir Police on Monday night buried three unidentified militants killed in EDI building encounter behind police station Sheeri, some seven kilometers from Baramulla town.
The bodies were first taken to district hospital Baramulla where a senior doctor conducted their postmortem inside a police vehicle. The bodies were later shifted to police lines and kept there for some time. Police station Boniyar was asked to dig the graves but when local residents protested the move, police handed over the bodies to station house officer Sheeri. The bodies were buried behind police station Sheeri along the river banks near Gantamulla lift irrigation scheme at about 12pm.
As reported by this newspaper, the police first announced to bury the trio in Kichhama village but later buried them in Sheeri.
Sources said that police used JCB machines to dig the graves. There was no civilian present at the time of burial. However, some people offered prayers at their graves in the morning.
On February 6 this year, the villagers of Badian village refused to bury the bodies of the three militants who were killed by the government forces in Hajin. They told the police that given the past history of fake gunfights in which civilians were labeled militants, they are not sure whether they have been burying civilians or militants.
Ever since the death of Lashkar-e-Toiba’s Kashmir chief Abu Qasim in November last year, the forces have been burying all Pakistani militants in Baryan village, about 90km from Srinagar. However, when the three persons killed in Hajin, who were declared as Pakistani militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba outfit by the police, were brought for burial to their village, Baryan residents flatly refused to bury them.
The villagers demonstrated which prompted the police team to take the bodies to a forested area in Bonyar, 5-6km downhill. The policemen buried the bodies themselves on a piece of land behind the government higher secondary school in Bonyar.