Mass grave bogey debunked

By K.N. Pandita

For some weeks in the past, PDP and other opposition parties as well as separatist groups have raised unprecedented hue and cry on “unmarked graves” in Kashmir whose count they claim to be running in thousands. They tried to highlight the issue in a partisan manner indirectly indicting the government for conniving at the killing of thousands of Kashmiris as a result of raging armed insurgency since 1989. The issue of unmarked graves was first raked up by the State Human Rights Commission and the protestors took the cue from its report. It is mystifying that the SHRC never thought of reacting on many other incidents of blatant violation of human rights in Kashmir like the rise of armed insurgency, attacks on and killing of innocent members of religious minority and forced eviction of entire KP community from Kashmir, atrocities committed by armed insurgents against innocent people of Kashmir, siege and occupation of sufi shrines and other cultural or historical places, and many other categorised as violation of human rights. The organization has not been fair and equitably just; its credentials raise many questions.  

On the second day of its current session, the State Legislative Assembly saw PDP and its affiliates virtually making the assembly a hostage to a debate on the issue of unmarked graves as it moved the motion of scrapping the question hour and using it for debate on mass grave issue. The Speaker disallowed the motion and the party members staged a walk out. It clearly reflected that the opposition party was interested in gaining political mileage out of the issue rather than treat it on its merit as alleged violation of human rights. Obviously the purpose of this dramatic interlude was to score a point over its rival, the party in power and relay the message that the party really cared for the affected families.

But their antics were squarely blunted by a forceful response from the Chief Minister, perhaps one of his finest speeches in the law making body. He disarmed his opponents first by telling them that there was no practice of marking the graves in Kashmir, and then by revealing sensitive facts about armed insurgency in Kashmir, facts which the opposition knows but would like to brush them under the carpet. He asserted with full confidence and on the basis of authentic record that there was not a single mass grave in Kashmir except one or two graves in which two dead persons were reported to be buried and even their identity was not known. “The other day only, one of our newspapers reported that there were 2500 mass graves in Poonch district alone. Had this large number of people died and disappeared, their families would not have remained silent for 22 years,” the CM asserted. According to the best verified official statistics, 2,136 militants have died in gun battles with troops in Poonch in 22 years and they have all been buried separately with full religious rituals. Out of this number 2,090 were foreigners. Nobody knows anything about their identities, families and places of residence, and above all they always take a pseudonym not revealing their real names. Thousands of unidentified militants from as many as 12 identified foreign countries—Pakistan, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Russia, Sudan, Britain etc—had got killed in encounters with security forces in the last 22 years in J&K but successive governments had no available means to ascertain their identities. “Many of the missing militants are known to have raised families across the border.

Many are known to be working as labours, vendors, salesmen and shopkeepers”, Omar asserted and asked how each and every missing person could be dumped in the government’s account. According to him, politicians, human rights activists and media were mixing up all disappearances and killings to corner the government. “Even in the statistics from different quarters, there were too many variations. For example, according to official figures, 17000 civilians have been killed by militants and forces in J&K. Statistics from separatist leaders and Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) are completely different over those killed openly or subjected to enforced disappearance”, Omar added.

This statement of the Chief Minister should be an eye opener to one and all. The facts he has enumerated must be a disappointment  to all those who thought they were poised to corner his government, Now that he has reacted and retaliated, the opposition must do some introspection. It has to realise that its maligning campaign has boomeranged. And the last laugh rests with the CM who has proposed constitution of truth and reconciliation commission to probe into these happenings.

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