From: shabana khan <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, Aug 25, 2011 at 2:58 PM
Subject: INDIA: Action must follow the report discovering mass graves in north Kashmir
Cc: Lenin Raghuvanshi <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Prime Minister of India
Government of India
Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) appreciates the efforts taken by the State Human Rights Commission of Jammu and Kashmir in conducting an enquiry and filing a report concerning the mass graves in the state. The 17-page report of the Commission's special investigation team, headed by a Senior Superintendent of Police, reveals that 2,730 unidentified bodies are found buried in 38 sites in north Kashmir's Bandipore, Baramulla, and Kupwara districts. This could of course just be a fraction of the real number of persons, reportedly disappeared or killed and buried, in unmarked or marked graves spread across the state. The question is, now that the Commission has filed its report, what will be done next?
On August 15 this year, the Union Defence Minister, Mr A K Anthony, urged the country's defence units to protect and respect human rights. Given the track record of the defence units stationed in states like Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur, the Defence Minister's speech can only be viewed as an acknowledgment of the fact that human rights violations by the army units is a matter of concern for the government. To translate this concern into practice, complaints of human rights abuses by victims and those living in the shadow of the armed forces must be investigated and furthermore, prosecuted.
The investigation and prosecution of persons committing human rights violations cannot happen without the filing of complaints. In the absence of any form of witness protection in the country however, together with additional threats to human rights defenders, lawyers and victims, there are no enabling circumstances in the two states to encourage anyone to complain about atrocities committed against them.
For the past five decades the government of India has viewed any foreign entities willing to support victims' groups in the two states as Pakistan-sponsored groups. Any mention of the Indian side of Kashmir outside India is by default viewed by India's global diplomatic missions as a voice from Pakistan. This visible paranoia is based on the principle of 'deny it all'. While neighbouring countries may openly and clandestinely support violence in Jammu and Kashmir and in Manipur both in cash and kind, and while anti-Indian interests elsewhere directly or indirectly support most armed and violent groups operating in the two states, this does not absolve the Indian government's duty to protect its citizens, and nor does it excuse the government's arbitrary use of force against Indians.
Simultaneously, transparent efforts must be undertaken to locate similar graves within and beyond the districts where the investigation was currently undertaken. Parallel attempts must be made to trace why such persons ended up in unmarked graves. The potential of such an inquiry to expose atrocities committed by the state's armed forces cannot be a reason to not investigate. It is in fact the responsibility of the government to hold such inquires and to further guarantee protection to those willing to testify in such a process. Such an exercise would only improve the morale of the armed forces and promote public trust towards the government, which in both states is very low for the past several years. Those officers finally identified must be prosecuted and punished according to the law. A similar process must be initiated in Manipur as well. The draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 must also be repealed.
It is in visible acts of honesty that a government's legitimate writ and its presence as a guardian of the life and property of the people is noted. If the deceased have spoken from their graves, it remains to be seen how the Indian government will respond.