Calls for DNA sampling matching with next of kin of disappeared people

The Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has created ripples by revealing that 2,156 unidentified bodies are lying in “mass graves” in three districts of north Kashmir. It has called for DNA sampling of bodies to compare them with the next of kin of people who have disappeared.

However, the State government has reacted cautiously and said it would be premature to talk about it. “We will first go through the report and then comment. I haven't seen it as yet,” Minister of State for Home Nasir Aslam Wani said.

In its 17-page report, the special investigation team (SIT) of the SHRC headed by a Senior Superintendent of Police has taken the lid off some shocking facts, revealing that 2,730 unidentified bodies had been buried in 38 sites in north Kashmir's Baramulla, Bandipore and Kupwara districts.

“These were claimed to be the bodies of unidentified militants by the police and handed over to local people for burial in various unmarked graveyards of north Kashmir,” said the report given by the 11-member SIT.

Subsequently, 517 bodies were identified and out of them 17 were shifted to their native graveyards. The report says that 557 identified bodies are still buried in these graves while 2,156 remain unidentified. There is more than one body buried in 18 graves while 20 bodies are charred and five skulls have been discovered. Despite talking to a number of people who gave details to the team in these areas, it has only put in black and white the “facts” on which 62 witnesses agreed to come on record. “Others were not ready in view of security concerns,” the report said.

The Association of Parents of Displaced Persons (APDP) had in its reports maintained that 2,373 were buried in these mass graves.

“It is beyond doubt that unmarked graves containing dead bodies do exist in various places in North Kashmir,” the SIT report revealed.

“The maximum bodies have bullet injuries,” it concluded. The report said the government did not account for 1,692 bodies.

It suggested that “there is every possibility that unidentified bodies buried in various unmarked graves at 38 places may contain bodies of enforced disappearance cases because 574 are unidentified.”

According to the SIT, the only way to negate or affirm the statements given by the police is to compare the DNA profile of the unidentified bodies buried in these unmarked graves with the DNA of the next of kin of enforced disappearance cases.

“The scope for DNA extraction is still very bright. As time goes, chances will be dim,” it said, adding that the Commission should do the needful.

The report also suggested that “to stop the misuse of powers under AFSPA [Armed Forces Special Powers Act] and Disturbed Areas Act,” it is necessary that wherever anybody is killed — whether he is a militant or an innocent civilian — his or her identification profile including DNA profile should be maintained properly.”

‘Stand vindicated'

The first report on these unmarked graves was released by the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), of which the APDP is a part. “After we published a report on unmarked graves and mass graves, the security agencies accused us of maligning the image of the armed forces. Now the police investigation wing of the SHRC has vindicated our research,” said Khurram Pervez, coordinator of JKCCS.

“The government should allow the concerned police investigation wing of the SHRC to widen the scope of investigation across Jammu and Kashmir.” He said when the SHRC passed the final order, “we would seek judicial intervention, if the government fails to implement the recommendations.”

Though the APDP has maintained that the number of disappearances in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989 had crossed 8,000, only 1417 documented cases have been submitted to the Chief Minister.

“We are planning to submit another list shortly,” said Mr. Khurram. When asked why it did not match with the 8000 figure, he said: “Many cases are unreported and we are trying to document all cases.” However, another faction of APDP headed by Parveena Ahangar has documented only 450 cases so far.

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