By Sultan M. Hali

Following the 2008 discovery of unmarked graves in 55 villages across the northern regions of Baramulla, Bandipore and Handwara in Kashmir by human rights groups, last week, the Indian government confirmed more than 2,000 unidentified bodies had been found in single and mass graves in three northern regions. Another 574 bodies found in the graves have been identified as local residents. Indian Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), for the first time, has officially acknowledged that 2,156 unnamed bodies have been buried in mass graves across Indian Kashmir. This vindicates the position taken by various human rights activists and independent analysts including this scribe that the over 8000 Kashmiri youth missing, were brutally tortured, murdered and their bodies hidden in unmarked single and mass graves. This gives a fresh twist to the 32 year old struggle, which commenced in 1989, after the Kashmiris lost hope and faith in the Indian government ever acquiescing to upholding the UN Resolutions on Kashmir for the Kashmiris to exercise their right of plebiscite to decide their own fate. Since then, over 100,000 Kashmiris were butchered, their women raped and houses and shops looted and burnt. Thousands of Kashmiri youth lie incarcerated in Indian prisons on trumped up charges but most pathetically, over 8000 of the local Kashmiri youth have been missing and their kith and kin have been driven from pillar to post in search of some clue to the whereabouts of their loved ones.   

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Indian officials set up the commission to investigate and also began a separate police investigation, the findings of which have yet to be released. The commission’s 17-page report also urged DNA profiling to identify the bodies, saying the matter should be “investigated thoroughly by an impartial agency.” London based Amnesty International is urging India to allow impartial forensic experts to investigate hundreds of unmarked graves in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Indian officials have previously claimed the graves contain the bodies of Kashmiri militants fighting Indian occupation. But the Indian government now says Kashmiri civilians killed in the 20-year-old conflict may also be buried there.

Ultimately, the Indian government should be commended for taking the belated step of identifying the bodies. It is a painful step for the authorities to admit their wanton bloodshed, carnage and the callous process of hiding the remains; however it will provide a closure to the bereaved families of the missing Kashmiri youth. The Amnesty International should be asked where they have been all these thirty two years, when over 700,000 Indian armed forces were wreaking havoc over the hapless Kashmiris. Using draconian laws like POTA and AFSPA by virtue of which they can shoot to kill, enter any house and arrest its inmates without warrants and commit other atrocities yet not be challenged by any court of law. Contemporary history is rife with cases of rape, murder and mayhem. The Rip Van Winkle attitude of the international human rights agencies to be sleeping through decades of suppression and subjugation of the Kashmiris has actually encouraged India to continue with its policies of state terrorism in the Indian Occupied Kashmir. To add insult to injury, India has labeled the just and warranted freedom struggle of the Kashmiris as acts of terrorism and has also accused Pakistan of abetting, arming and launching them. Pakistan has denied such baseless charges since it offers only diplomatic and moral support to the oppressed Kashmiris being crushed under the yoke of Indian tyranny. What is worse is that some Indian analysts, in order to hide their crimes against humanity are equating the massacres in Kashmir with the situation in Balochistan.  They are claiming that “those in Pakistan who are sadly ‘rejoicing’ at this unfortunate news should think about the atrocities being committed in Balochistan by the Pakistani military and its proxies. At least the Indian state has taken the first step by uncovering human rights violations in Kashmir while Pakistan continues to ignore state oppression being committed against the Baloch. Pakistan can no longer paper over its ‘kill and dump’ policy in Balochistan. Thousands of Baloch have been missing and Pakistan’s spy agencies are said to be behind the abductions, torture and murder of Baloch nationalists. The wave of separatism in Balochistan has picked up momentum because of this phenomenon. If we support the Kashmiris’ right to accountability for crimes committed by the Indian security forces, how can we justify our double standards in the case of Balochistan? Pakistan either needs to stop the military operation in Balochistan and give the Baloch their due rights or be prepared for the breakdown of the federation.”

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These misinformed analysts with their misplaced loyalties need to get their facts straight and understand that some members of the Baloch community are engaged in acts of insurgency, which has neither been endorsed by the United Nations through Resolutions, nor has Balochistan been dubbed as a disputed territory as Kashmir has been. On the other hand, Pakistan has ample evidence of Indian spy agency RAW being engaged in clandestine activities in its fourteen Consulates and Trade Missions in Afghanistan, recruiting, training, arming and launching Baloch youth to carry out subversion in Pakistan.

There are others who are pointing at the killing fields of Karachi and claiming that if Pakistani authorities are letting the bloodbath of innocent Pakistanis continue unabated with little or no action to apprehend the culprits or protect the lives of common citizens then Pakistan has no right to point fingers at Indian atrocities in Kashmir. Here they do have a point to some extent, since it is baffling that more than 100 precious lives of innocent citizens have been lost to torture mongers engaged in a turf war and no finger has been raised. The Pakistan Army intervened in Swat at much less but here the Army is being kept at bay, while the Sindh Rangers and Police are being used with their dilapidated equipment, weaponry and total lack of commitment to take action, thus the killing continues unchecked with impunity.