Thousands of bodies discovered in unmarked graves in Kashmir

Graves marked by numbers in Kupwara district

More than 2,000 corpses, believed to be victims of Kashmir’s long-running insurgency, have been found buried in dozens of unmarked graves in the divided region, an Indian government human rights commission report has said.

The graves were found in dozens of villages on the Indian side of the line of control, the de facto border that has split the former kingdom between India and Pakistan for nearly 40 years. “At 38 places visited in north Kashmir, there were 2,156 unidentified dead bodies buried in unmarked graves,” the inquiry found.

Though campaigners and community leaders in Kashmir have long said such graves exist – and often provided extensive documentary evidence to back up their claims – the report is the first official statement confirming their existence…

Up to 70,000 people died in the 22-year insurgency in Kashmir, which pitted armed separatist groups, many backed by Pakistan, against New Delhi’s rule.

The worst of the violence occurred during the mid-1990s when a vicious struggle pitted thousands of militants against Indian security forces supplemented by locally-hired irregulars. Human rights abuses were routine with militants intimidating local communities and killing so-called spies while Indian authorities resorted to abductions, torture and extra-judicial executions on a wide scale. The graves appear to date from this period.

Kashmir is India’s only Muslim-majority state and the struggle rapidly took on a religious dimension. The victims in the mass graves had been buried by local communities.

Police originally described the bodies to villagers as “unidentified militants”. This claim is disputed by the report, local media said , which also calls for a forensic investigation involving DNA identification of remains…

A US diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks and published by the Guardian last December revealed a briefing to the US embassy in Delhi by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross which described continuing torture and arbitrary detention by security forces.

Sigh. No government can mask anti-human practices for long. Time either proves accusations right or wrong – and governments which intend democratic practices, past, present or future had better learn to open the door to investigation.

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