Mass graves in Kashmir raise rights violation stink

29 March 2008
The Hindustan Times
Rashid Ahmad, Hindustan Times

Srinagar: Relatives of people missing in Kashmir said on Friday they had found up to 1,000 unmarked graves in border villages near Uri, and urged international agencies to help them identify the dead. Members of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) fear that their relatives who disappeared following arrests by security agencies in the restive region might be buried in those graves. 'We have found 940-1,000 nameless graves and there are many more, but these bodies have been claimed as those of foreign militants,' said Parvez Imroz, a prominent human rights activist and patron of APDP. There were many more graves around Uri in Baramullah district where the buried people have been claimed as foreign militants, he said after the APDP released a report Facts Under Ground. He said that Atta Mohammad Khan, a caretaker of a graveyard at Bimyar village, had told APDP that only six out of 203 graves there had names on them. He said that 235 unidentified bodies were found in two graveyards at Kichama village, while 200 were buried in Bijhama village. Imroz said that the fact-finding team visited 18 villages in all. He said the investigations were conducted with the permission of the district magistrate and the army. ' don't know anything about the findings,' said Mehboob Iqbal, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir. 'It offers us some hope that the disappeared persons might be buried in these graves', Imroz said, adding that up to 10,000 people may have disappeared in the state since 1990. The state has on various occasions put the number of missing between 60 and 3,941. The army, according to AFP, rejected claims that the graves contained bodies of anyone besides rebels. “Those who have been buried in these villages were killed in well established encounters over the past two decades,' it quoted army spokesman Anil Kumar Mathur as saying. 'Some were killed along the Line of Control and their bodies brought to these villages as they are closer to the border,' he said.