Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mark the Graves



The famous Russell–Einstein Manifesto issued in London on July 9, 1955 ends with the following words: “We appeal, as human beings, to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you can’t, there lies before you the risk of universal death.”

Today the time has come for us to call upon the rulers of Jammu and Kashmir to remember their humanity, listen to the voice of their conscience and take a decision that will begin the process of undoing the many wrongs committed against the people of Kashmir. The time has come for the rulers of J&K to stop living in denial and come out with truths even though some of those truths might hurt than comfort. But then bitter truths are better than false comforts. 

The Omar-Abdullah led government of J&K should immediately order the DNA profiling of over 2000 dead bodies lying unsung in around 38 graveyards of Kashmir.For a Chief Minister who has been talking about truth and reconciliation and has been a voice of reason and moderation, this is the opportunity to demonstrate to his fellow Kashmiris and the world that he does care about those whose Chief Minister he is. 

Indeed, there is a growing national and international concern about the Omar-government’s flip-flops on the question of mass graves. This is something that his government is not going to be able to ignore for too long. TheUN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in her statement a few days ago urged “the Indian authorities to fully investigate past killings and disappearances and bring the perpetrators to justice, as well as to ensure protection of witnesses and families of the missing and provide them with redress”. Amnesty International in its reports has been calling upon the government to conduct an inquiry into the matter. Kashmiris from all walks of life have been demanding on a daily basis that the government should order DNA profiling of the remains in those graves. How long will the rulers of Kashmir be able to ignore the voice of their people? 

The J&K State Home Department has reportedly written to the State Human Rights Commissionthat “many of the Human Rights activists raise the bogey of human rights violations at the behest of forces inimically disposed towards our country”. The ‘all-knowing, immensely wise and undoubtedly patriotic’ J&K Home department, by this statement, has not just accused “human rights walas” but also the State Human Rights commission, which happens to be a statutory body, of being anti-national! Someone needs to remind the babus of J&K Home department that it was not a report written by Pakistan that spoke of over 2000 bodies dumped into unmarked graves at 38 sites in north Kashmir. It was a report prepared by the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC). 

Replying to a question by the senior CPI-M leader and MLA, MY Tarigami a week ago, the J&K government informed the State’s Legislative Assembly that as per the information provided by the District Development Commissioners, 2305 persons have been declared missing in the state. Indeed, the figures were provided by the same Home department. 

So if we have a home department report which says that over 2000 persons are missing from the state and a SHRC report that says that around the same number of bodies are lying in unmarked graves in Kashmir, how on earth can the very same Home department now say that the graves mentioned by the SHRC are full of dead bodies of terrorists even though the state has still not been able to account for 2305 missing persons. I simply can’t get the logic behind this.  

In September 2011 Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had said so valiantly that DNA tests will be conducted on the dead bodies in the unmarked graves to confirm their identities. One year later, Omar’s government has now changed their stance on the issue. What has changed in one year? Who has convinced him to change his stance? Moreover, why does the Chief Minister keep changing his positions on important political issues? Shouldn’t the chief Minister of J&K be a man of his own words, at least? 

Is it not outrageous for the state government to say that “the families of the disappeared should identify the particular graveyard and the grave where they believe their family member might be buried. Only then after acquiring proper permission DNA test of that particular grave would be carried out.” As I said in my last column, how on earth can the families of missing persons ever manage to do that? Forget justice for a moment, can Omar Abdullah’s government please stop making fun of the Kashmiri people?

If the home department is so certain that the bodies actually belong to militants killed by the Indian armed forces and not innocent Kashmiris, shouldn’t it actually be forthcoming and enthusiastic about a probe that will verify their claims? If the home department is not lying to the people why not back it up with some evidence? 

The fact is that we all know why the state government is choosing to live in denial. The J&K government, like all governments, would not like to own up to having committed or help commit any sins.

What is also unfortunate is that even as there are sane voices in the rest of India demanding an urgent probe into the matter, much of the country seems to prefer not to bother with it. As the widely read Indian columnist Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar pointed out a year ago: “Secular Indians feel outraged by 900 Muslim deaths in Gujarat’s 2002 riots. They are outraged by the killing of 3,000 people by Chilean dictator Pinochet. But they are mostly bored by 2,730 Kashmiri bodies in unmarked graves.” This is the tragedy of Kashmir and no less a predicament of the Indian secularism.

No comments: