This release comes from the ASSOCIATION OF PARENTS OF DISAPPEARED PERSONS
The Bund Amira Kadal, Srinagar – 190001, Jammu and Kashmir
28th September 2011
Yesterday’s (27th September 2011) statement made by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on unmarked graves and mass graves is hurtful and amounts to trivializing a serious issue of enforced disappearances and unmarked graves. Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) believes that Omar Abdullah’s statement created an impression of him being an advocate of the culpable armed forces personnel as opposed to the representative of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Omar Abdullah has said, “The families would have to help us, indicating in which graveyard they suspect their member could be buried so that we will do the needful.” This is a shameless assertion. How would families know where their loved ones are buried? If the family members of the disappeared had any clue, as to where their family members are buried, then they would have already sought the permission for the exhumations from the District Magistrates.
We the family members of the disappeared would like to put it on record that APDP has already submitted a list of 1417 cases where families are willing to cooperate in the DNA profiling. But APDP feels that DNA sampling by those agencies who have already discredited themselves will not help at all. There are many instances in Jammu and Kashmir where in crucial cases DNA samples were fudged by investigating agencies. So DNA profiling must be done by some credible international expert group, which has the history of working on the issue of unmarked graves and mass graves.
Omar Abdullah also emphasized that there are no mass graves and these are only unmarked graves. We would like to ask him how he knows that there are no mass graves. Is he relying on the inputs of culpable armed forces and police officials who have been responsible for disappearances, custodial killings, fake encounters and unmarked graves and mass graves? It is only investigations which will prove how many mass graves exist in Jammu and Kashmir. So far in 38 graveyards investigated by State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), there are 18 mass graves and according to the research work of IPTK (International Peoples’ Tribunal on Truth and Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir) and APDP, we have identified 42 mass graves in 62 graveyards. So by denying the existence of mass graves Omar Abdullah is undermining the credibility of the investigation carried out by his own state institution and also trivializing our work, without any credible evidence to substantiate his argument.
Omar Abdullah in his assembly speech also tried to yet another time cover up the findings of SHRC and IPTK/APDP by saying, “people living in rural areas avoid tomb stones after burying the dead and some unmarked graves could belong to this category”. It is pertinent to mention here that when we or SHRC are referring to unmarked graves across Jammu and Kashmir, we are specifically talking about those graves, where dead bodies were handed over by the police or army to the local communities for burial. Neither SHRC nor we have indentified any grave which is owned by local population.
Omar Abdullah seems to be deliberately obfuscating the fact that 574 residents of Jammu and Kashmir have been identified after their burials out of 2730 graves investigated by SHRC. These 574 persons were killed in ‘encounters’ and claimed as foreign and unidentified militants by the State. These bodies were handed over by police to the local communities for burials. After their burials they have been identified as local residents.
In most cases where exhumations have taken place, it has been found that the disappeared persons were killed in fake encounters and buried as foreign militants in unmarked graves. Out of 53 cases which we have submitted to the SHRC, it has been established that 49 were local civilians. The exhumations at Panchalatan, Ganderbal, Kichama, Macchil etc are still fresh in the memory of the people, where it has been established beyond doubt that armed forces have been responsible for killing civilians in fake encounters and have buried them in unmarked graves. There are many court cases and inquiries which prove the involvement of armed forces and police in disappearances, fake encounters, torture, custodial killings and other heinous crimes.
Despite this public evidence Omar Abdullah is asking people to not condemn armed forces. This obfuscation amounts to complicity.
The prima-facie evidence produced by us about the existence of 6500 unmarked graves in 5 districts of Jammu and Kashmir is already an alarming phenomenon and merits a thorough investigation by competent, credible and impartial investigating agency. If government allows a credible investigation, we will submit more prima-facie evidence about unmarked graves and mass graves across Jammu and Kashmir. Given the present hostile attitude and denial mode in which state is operating it appears no amount of evidence and argument can persuade the government to allow the truth to be exhumed.
Yaseen Hassan Malik