SRINAGAR: Over 2,000 unidentified bodies have been buried in scores of unmarked graves in Indian Kashmir, according to the state human rights commission in the region roiled by a separatist insurgency.
“It is beyond doubt that unmarked graves containing unidentified bodies do exist at various places in north Kashmir,” said a report by the commission, established by the government in 1997 to investigate human rights violations.
An independent group based in Srinagar, the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice (IPT), had in 2009 documented unidentified bodies buried in the region’s northern villages.
Indian and international rights groups called for a probe into whether the unmarked graves held bodies of civilians who have “disappeared” as Indian security forces struggled to contain rebellion in the Muslim-majority region.
The IPT says 8,000 people have gone missing there during 20 years of separatist insurgency against rule from New Delhi, most of those after they were arrested by Indian security personnel.
Indian officials have repeatedly claimed that those buried in unmarked graves were militants — most of those Pakistanis — who were killed in clashes with security forces.
They also argue that many of the missing locals had meanwhile crossed to Pakistan to join militant groups.
The commission’s report said that of 2,730 unidentified bodies handed over to local residents by police for burial over the years, 574 were later identified as locals by their relatives.
The report — prepared by an 11-member team headed by a senior police superintendent — said that DNA profiling should be used to match unidentified bodies with relatives to resolve the controversy.
“The scope for DNA extraction from remains of these unidentified bodies buried in unmarked graves of north Kashmir is still very bright. As the time will go on… chances will be more and more reduced,” the report said.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, which each country holds in part but claims in full.
The insurgency against New Delhi’s rule has left more than 47,000 people dead since 1989, according to an official count. Human rights groups put the toll at double that number.