JAMMU AND KASHMIR
J&K govt to set up commission to investigate unmarked graves
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is also set to look into human rights violations
Yet to be constituted Truth and Reconciliation Commission will investigate the unmarked graves in Kashmir, said the J&K government, while calling on the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), which identified these graves to “dispose of” the case.
In its 27-page Action Taken Report submitted to SHRC, the J&K government claims it has mooted the idea of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the state in the context of the unmarked graves. “The honorable Chief Minister was pleased to mention that the government shall look into all the aspects relating to the establishment of such a commission. The CM also raised the issue of setting up of Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the meeting of the National Integration Council held in New Delhi in September 2011,” the report said. “In view of the detailed submission the case (of unmarked graves) filed before SHRC may kindly be disposed of accordingly”.
However, at the same time, the government conceded that the constitution of such a commission would require consultation and broad consensus among all stakeholders.
The state government has, however, said that it will be open-minded and transparent in the investigation of the human rights issues. “Any complaint or grievance by any individual shall be put to proper scrutiny and investigation to the satisfaction of the complainant,” the report by the Home Department says.
Last year, the SHRC had directed the J&K government to constitute an “independent, duly representative, credible, structured and fully empowered body to investigate and identify the people buried in unmarked graves and to prosecute the perpetrators”.
The SHRC was the first to confirm the existence of around 2,156 bodies in 38 unmarked graves in three districts of the Valley. Following this discovery, the International People Tribunal for Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK) and Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) submitted a rejoinder listing at least 2,717 more graves in 90 graveyards in Poonch and 1,127 graves in 118 cemeteries in Rajouri.
However, instead of acting on the directions of SHRC, the state government has sought the closure of the case. The government wants the issue to be dealt by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the future.
Human rights groups in Valley, however, see the official report as part of an effort to escape the accountability. “There is little possibility that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be constituted in the foreseeable future. This is clearly an attempt to delay the delivery of justice,” said Khurram Parvez, coordinator, Coalition of Civil Society. Khurram said the government was obliged to establish the truth in the unmarked graves. “Reconciliation will follow only when we know the truth and the identity of the guilty. But here the government also wants to defer the investigation of truth, which makes it institutionally culpable,” he added.
PDP Chief Spokesman Naeem Akhter said that the government was trying to hoodwink people in the name of Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “What is SHRC? Isn’t it a variant of Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Why can’t SHRC handle this issue,” asked Akhter. “Omar is only raising expectations which he has no power to fulfill and, in the process, diminishing the office of the Chief Minister,” said he while speaking to Tehelka.
Riyaz Wani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.