Conflict & Justice

Leader wants truth commission to probe Kashmir's alleged mass graves


Members of the Association of Parents of Disappeared People cry as they participate in a protest rally to demand information on the whereabouts of missing relatives, during the International Day of the Disappeared in Srinagar, on August 30, 2011.



Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Tuesday called for a "truth and reconciliation commission" to be set up to investigate allegations that so-called disappeared persons are buried in mass graves in several locations throughout the troubled state, reports India's Mail Today newspaper.

Abdullah denied the existence of mass graves, saying that there were only a few cases in which two bodies were found buried together, and insisted that the bodies buried in what the Mail Today had earlier termed 2,500 graves were most likely made up chiefly of foreign militants, the paper reported.

"A newspaper has carried a report about the presence of 2,500 graves in Poonch, including mass graves..." the Mail Today quotes Abdullah as saying. "The records reveal that 2,136 militants have been killed in Poonch since 1990, of which 2,090 were of foreign origin. The graves could be theirs, but to declare them 'mass graves of unidentified persons' cannot be the real reflection of facts."
Arguing for the commission while speaking on a motion moved by the National Conference legislators to discuss the issue of mass graves, the chief minister said: "This can be the biggest J&K-centric confidence-building mechanism (CBM) by India and Pakistan for the people of the state." He also requested the leadership of the two countries to hold a dialogue on the issue and come forward with a joint strategy, the paper said.

After the Jammu and Kashmir Human Rights Commission ordered a fresh inquiry into allegations that 3,000 more bodies are buried at other sites in south Kashmir, Abdullah said the state was prepared to conduct DNA tests on the bodies to verify claims by state security forces that the bodies are those of militants killed in clashes with Indian forces when they tried to cross from Pakistan's side of the Line of Control, the BBC reported

Many relatives of the state's so-called "disappeared persons" and other locals believe that the bodies belong to civilians killed at the hands of the army and the police.

"If [relatives of the missing persons] come to us with samples we will be more than prepared to carry out DNA testing," Chief Minister Abdullah told the state assembly Tuesday.