The Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has recommended the identification of all those 2,156 people buried in unmarked graves in north Kashmir. The graves were identified through an investigation done by its police wing last month.
In its order on Friday, a division bench of the SHRC comprising Chairman Justice (retd.) Syed Bashiruddin and Javed Ahmad Kawoos suggested that all means like DNA profiling be used to identify the bodies buried in 38 places in Kashmir.
The bench made six recommendations to address the issue and linked it to cases of disappearances in the State.
It said that “the dead bodies in unmarked graves … shall be identified by all available means and techniques like DNA profile, physical description, dental examination, distinctive medical characteristics, finger prints, carbon dating, forensic pathology etc. as may be applicable.”
The aim is to see if the identity of the bodies i matches the identity of ‘disappeared' persons.
Human rights groups in the State claim “thousands” of Kashmiris have disappeared since 1990. The documented numbers are more modest though no less alarming -- the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons has 350 names on its roster while the State government acknowledges some 1,200 residents are “missing”. While the APDP's charge is that the majority of these ‘disappeared' persons have been illegally killed by the security forces, the State says the missing numbers are mostly made up of young men who crossed the Line of Control to join militant groups.
Positive DNA matches with family members of missing persons may not immediately settle the debate over the circumstances leading to the death of the individuals buried in these unmarked graves – eg. whether the encounter was genuine or fake – but they will likely embarrass the State and the Centre .
On August 20, the first official inquiry report of the SHRC suggested there were 2,730 unmarked graves across Baramulla, Bandipore and Kupwara districts. According to the report, 574 of these were buried by locals, leaving 2,156 bodies still buried in the unidentified graves.
The Commission has now ordered that DNA profile sampling be supplemented by modern scientific techniques and methods facilitating and ensuring matching of the unidentified dead bodies in unmarked graves on maintenance of the identification profiles with the identity of a particular dead body or a disappeared or any other person whose identification with the bodies discovered in unmarked graves is sought or claimed by the families concerned.
The SHRC has also said that after the bodies have been identified, any prosecution for crimes like culpable homicide shall be undertaken on the basis of the due process of law.
It asked the government to ensure compensatory justice in case identified disappeared persons had suffered an unnatural death. To address the larger issue, the Bench said “an independent duly representative structure/body…” be constituted and put in place in time”