Mushrooming unmarked graves and sham elections in IIOJK

Iqbal Khan

Kashmir issue is once again alive as the UN Security Council has considered it three times since August 2019, when India illegally merged the disputed territory with the union. The UN Human Rights Council has also considered it numerous times. UN special rapporteurs have highlighted Indian violations of human rights in Kashmir on several occasions, and 18 special rapporteurs had jointly spoken out against Indian atrocities in the region. Moreover, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued two reports and spoken five times in the Human Rights Council on the issue of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIJK).

Under the pretext of Covid-19, India is burying Kashmiri youth killed, in mostly fake encounters, at faraway places in unmarked graves hurriedly dug by earthmover machines.

This policy has added to widespread anti-India anger in the disputed region. Human Rights experts say the refusal to return bodies to families is a crime. “It is an outright violation of international law and against the Geneva Conventions,” “This is even against local laws.” Interestingly, the troops killed in same encounters are being given traditional funeral and burial at respective home address of each.

Deceptive Indian narratives, like District Council elections in (IIOJK) can neither deceive the Kashmiri people nor mislead the international community. These gimmicks cannot they divert attention from the core issue of the Kashmiris’ inalienable right to self-determination. Rather than resort to diversions and obfuscations, India should end its illegal occupation and meet its obligation of holding a plebiscite allowing the Kashmiris to exercise their right of self-determination as enshrined in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Pakistan has rejected the “preposterous and fallacious” claims by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about “democracy” in occupied Kashmir, following the so-called elections of the District Development Council.

The Foreign Office spokesman said: “The RSS-BJP brand of ‘democracy’ only means the muzzling of the Kashmiri voice and will, under the bayonets of Indian army guns.”

Recent District Council election, was the first such exercise since Modi government revoked the special status of the IIOJK. New Delhi cracked down on the opposition and rounded up hundreds of people to pre-empt protests and violence after an alliance of regional political parties won the polls.

Indian prime minister lashed out at his country’s opposition, saying that the “peaceful election” in occupied Kashmir was a mirror to those who “teach me democracy every day”. According to Hindustan Times, Modi’s statement was in response to comments made by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who had said that there is no democracy in India. In his address, Modi also said that the “transparent” elections in occupied Kashmir and the people’s participation were a moment of pride for India, Times of India reported.

New version pf democracy being touted by the RSS-BJP regime in occupied Kashmir is the one marked by the brutal military siege since August 5, 2019, egregious violations of human rights in the occupied territory, and untold sufferings by the Kashmiri people.

Pakistan has, time and again, reminded the international community that Kashmir is not just a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan, it is mainly about what the people of Kashmir want.

Addressing a January 09 webinar on the 1949 UN resolution on Kashmir, Pakistan’s Ambassador at the United Nations Munir Akram urged the world body to ensure that the people of the occupied Jammu and Kashmir exercise their right to self-determination. According to the daily Dawn, Ambassador Akram highlighted the points on which there is general agreement. “We all agree on the legitimacy of the Kashmiri struggle. We all agree on the massive violations of human rights, which have taken place in Kashmir over the years and especially in the recent past,” he said.

“And we also all agree on the heroism and dedication of the Kashmiri people whose third generation is keeping the spirit of resistance alive”. According to Dar Yasin’s report for Associated Press, during the last week of 2020, Indian government forces killed Athar and two other young men during a controversial gunfight on the outskirts of the Indian-controlled Kashmir’s main city. Police did not call them anti-India militants but “hard-core associates of terrorists.” They later buried them at a graveyard in a remote mountainous tourist resort miles away from their ancestral villages.

Report indicated that Athar was the latest Kashmiri to be buried in a far-off graveyard after Indian authorities in a new controversial policy in 2020 started to consign blood-soaked bodies of scores of Kashmiri freedom fighters to unmarked graves, denying the mourning families a proper funeral and a burial. “On a recent chilly winter day in Indian-controlled Kashmir, Mushtaq Ahmed shovelled the earth, laboriously digging a grave for his teenage son”.

There was, however, no body to be lowered inside. Then he rose, straightening his back, and faced the crowd, enraged. “I want my son’s body,” he screamed. “I ask India to return my son’s dead body to me.” Police said government forces fatally shot Ahmed’s 16-year-old son, Athar Mushtaq, and two other young men when the men refused to surrender on the outskirts of Srinagar city on December30.

According to slain men’s families “they were not militants and were killed in cold blood. “It was a fake encounter,” a grieving Ahmed cried, as the crowd that gathered around him in the graveyard shouted slogans demanding justice. Authorities buried them at a remote graveyard 115 kilometres from their ancestral villages. “Not returning the bodies of the slain is a humiliation to humanity,” said Zareef Ahmed Zareef, a civil rights campaigner and prominent Kashmiri poet.

Kashmiris for years have accused Indian troops of targeting civilians and abuse of power with sweeping impunity.

Troops have been accused of staging gunfights and then saying the victims were militants to claim rewards and promotions.

Kashmiris’ fears and rage over such incidents have been exacerbated by the new policy of not identifying those killed or their associates and refusing to return their bodies to their families. According to police, 158 militants have been buried at isolated locations since April 2020.

Bereaved families of civilians killed by government forces have repeatedly demanded that Indian authorities allow final rituals and proper burials at ancestral villages under the Muslim faith.

The pleas have been repeatedly denied. Families sometimes discreetly visit the remote graveyards and mark the graves of their kin with stones and scribble their names with paintbrushes. In culture, faith, history and civilization, the people of Kashmir and the people of Pakistan are one and the same. It is Pakistan, which is the backbone of the Kashmiri struggle. Every Pakistani has a deep sense of commitment to the cause of Kashmir.

Writer is a freelance contributor; email: