Unmarked Graves: J-K Police admits to the existence of 2683 FIRs

A graveyard with unmarked graves in Bimbyar, Uri where the gravedigger Atta Mohhamad says that he buried 236 unidentified bodies.

By Fahad Shah

For the first time, since the unmarked graves in Jammu and Kashmir were exposed, the state police admitted the existence of 2683 First Investigation Reports (FIRs) pertaining to the death of those unidentified persons who are buried in the unmarked graves.

The J-K police have admitted it in their reply to a RTI (J&K Right to Information act, 2009) submitted by the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir and Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (IPTK/APDP), on 17 October 2011, seeking information regarding the unmarked and other graves across all the districts of the state. The J-K Police have given 2683 FIR numbers from three districts of North Kashmir (Baramulla, Kupwara, and Bandipora). Further information related to the unmarked graves, in these districts, has not been shared and no information from the remaining 17 districts of the state has been given.

The number of FIR’s regarding death of unidentified persons in 28 police stations of three districts of north Kashmir are as: Trehgam- 326, Karnah-56, Gulmarg-13, Tangmarg-40, Dangiwacha-32, Sopore-110, Pattan-8, Chandoosa-4, Kunzer-22, Panzalla-92, Kreeri-20, Bijhama-35, Boniyar-33, Sheeri-25, Baramulla-103, Uri-31, Keran-40, Sogam-98, Kralpora-2, Handwara-492, Kralgund-32, Qalamabad-1, Vilgam-155, Bandipora-68, Sumbal-63, Gurez-88, Kupwara-396, and Lalpora-298.

The unmarked graves are those graves where dead bodies were handed over by the police or army to the local communities for burial. No independent or government investigating agency has identified, so far, any grave which is owned by local population. IPTK/APDP have always maintained that in most of the 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.

The IPTK/APDP have filed a petition before the Secretary of SHRC seeking re-investigation into these 2,683 FIRs and urged for further investigations in these cases. The petition is listed in the Division Bench of SHRC on June 6, 2012. It says that the report from the inquiry conducted by the Police Investigation Wing of SHRC, the Kashmir Police have stated that there are only 464 unidentified graves in north Kashmir. “However, the records recently acquired through the RTI procedure suggests that there are 2683 FIRs filed in various Police Stations of Baramulla, Kupwara, and Bandipora.”

The IPTK/APDP are urging the SHRC to call for all the records pertaining to these FIRs, including the copies of FIRs, Closure Reports/Chargesheets/Case Diaries, if any, Post Mortem reports, medico legal opinions, and inquest reports, if conducted. It also urges that in addition to the identification of the dead, comprehensive forensic examinations be conducted of those buried in unmarked graves and mass graves to determine the circumstances, date, and time of death.

When 6500 unmarked graves in 5 districts of Jammu and Kashmir were exposed by the IPTK/APDP and further investigated by the SHRC in which they visited 38 graveyards in North Kashmir, the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah denied the existence of “mass graves” by saying that these were only unmarked graves.

In his speech in September, 2011, in the assembly, Abdullah said: “People living in rural areas avoid tomb stones after burying the dead and some unmarked graves could belong to this category…It is important to set the record straight. I want to make it clear these are not mass graves. Nobody has furnished any proof about a mass grave existing in the state. If anybody has information about so-called mass graves, let him give the information to the state human rights commission…The state human rights commission recommendations on the issue will be given due consideration and implemented.”

So far no “due consideration” has been given to the investigations conducted by independent human rights defenders or SHRC.

Photo: Muhabit-ul-Haq

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