Unmarked graves have returned to haunt the 26-day old Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led People’s Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janta Party coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir.

Unmarked graves have returned to haunt the 26-day old Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led People’s Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janta Party coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir.Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), spearheading the campaign for the people missing in security forces’ custody, have formally written to chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed urging him to set up an independent commission of inquiry co-chaired by two credible retired Supreme Court judges to investigate the 7,000 unmarked graves.”The letter reminds Mufti Mohammad Sayeed that the responsibility of investigation and prosecution for 8,000-plus disappearances and 7,000-plus unknown, unmarked and mass graves lies with the Indian state, and its functionaries, including government of Jammu and Kashmir,” said Tahira Begum, spokesperson of APDP.A 2011 official inquiry report on unmarked graves conducted by the investigative wing of the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) had detected 2,156 unidentified bodies buried in 38 graveyards across five districts of north Kashmir.This excluded 574 bodies that were buried as unidentified but later identified that those of locals. The inquiry has also found 18 such graves in which more than one body is buried. It has also detected 20 charred bodies and five bodies comprising only of skulls.The SHRC report had come three years after APDP came up with ‘Facts Under Ground’, an investigation detailing 940 to 1,000 nameless graves of unidentified slain people.A year later in 2009 International Peoples’ Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK) came up with a report “Buried Evidence” documenting 2,700 unknown, unmarked, and mass graves, containing 2,943 bodies, across 55 villages in Bandipora, Baramulla, and Kupwara districts of Kashmir. It was based on applied research conducted from November 2006-November 2009.”The issue of unknown, unmarked and mass graves is closely connected to the issue of enforced disappearances… Our work was recognized by the European Parliament who passed a resolution in July 2008 urging Government of India to hold an investigation into the issue of unmarked and mass graves in Jammu and Kashmir. Further, the European Commission was called upon to offer financial and technical assistance to Government of India”, reads the APDP letter to Mufti.APDP has demanded that an Independent Commission of Inquiry, co-chaired by two credible retired justices of Supreme Court assisted by a relevant panel of international experts, and under scrutiny of independent observers, be tasked with the mandate of investigations of enforced disappearances and unknown, unmarked and mass graves, within a set time frame.”This Commission should carry out forensic examinations, DNA profiling, identify accused persons responsible and devise a framework for reparations”, said Tahira.APDP has also asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to put pressure on centre to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and invite/permit the following United Nations Special Rapporteurs / Working Groups to visit Jammu and Kashmir.”Without addressing structural and prevalent conditions, and more importantly, in the absence of justice, there can be no peace or normalcy. Therefore, the healing touch that is required of your government as an immediate step is, as stated above, mechanisms in place to address the issues of enforced disappearances, and unknown, unmarked and mass graves,” the APDP letter said.

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Issue of unmarked graves returns to haunt Mufti government