Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Says ‘No Mass Graves in Kashmir’

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Srinagar, Sept 27: The Chief minister of Indian administered Kashmir Omar Abdullah Tuesday said no mass graves are in the region.

Replying to a discussion on the issue in Assembly in Srinagar, Omar said misinformation is being circulated about these graves by tagging ‘mass graves’ to them. “Most of the graves have only one person and a few are with two persons but no grave is having more than two persons”, he said.

“We are circulating a wrong impression when we give the name of ‘mass graves’ to these unmarked graves identified recently and reported in the media”, he said adding that it gives an impression to the outside world as if hundreds of people are buried in few graves as had been done in Cambodia or during the time of Hitler.

He said these graves have appeared during the period from 1990 to 2006 and do not relate to the tenure of the present government. “I could have easily said that this matter does not pertain to my period but for the importance of the issue and to give justice to the people, I categorically announced that the report and recommendations of the State Human Rights Commission would be given due weightage and action taken to find out the facts and bring these before the people”, he said.

He disclosed that the militants from 12 foreign countries including Russia, Chechnya, Sudan, Pakistan, Britain and Afghanistan have been killed in encounters in Kashmir and their graves do exist.

He said it was essential to know all facts about these unmarked graves and give answer to every question in this regard. “We have to co-relate the figures. The figures quoted by media, SHRC and government totally differ one another. The official figure about the civilian killings during the period of militancy stands at 17,000 while separatists count them in lakhs”, he said adding that one cannot be certain who is buried where.

“Many people have been killed by militants; many militants have lost their lives during trainings and in other incidents. Recently 14 militants have been killed in encounter in North Kashmir and they have been buried there with Islamic rites. Presently we know these were militants and if their graves are found after 20 to 25 years later, the similar questions may arise”, he said saying that unless facts are ascertained the accusing finger towards forces is not justified.

He said the maxim ‘innocent unless proven guilty’ should apply to all whether men in uniform or others.

Omar maintained that a large number of disappeared persons are living normal life across the border, they have married and are engaged in various economic activities but they still exist as disappeared persons here.

“There is nothing black and white in Kashmir. We have more grey areas. For the importance of the issue, its complexity, and to unearth the facts, I have floated the idea of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) since the time I was in opposition”, he said emphasizing the need for such a Commission jointly by India and Pakistan to find answers to the so many questions and matters pertaining to the subject. “This can be a biggest Kashmir centric CBM by the two countries for the people of the State who want to know all about it”, he said and urged the leadership of India and Pakistan to discuss this issue in the dialogue and come forward with a joint strategy.

“Till such time TRC is constituted State Government would not sit still. I have assured you a number of times and reiterate this once again from the floor of this House that my Government would give due weight to the report and recommendations of SHRC regarding unmarked graves. We are not here to hide the facts or conceal the truth but our endeavour is to dig out the facts and bring these before the public”, he added.

Fayaz Wani reports on life in Srinagar, Kashmir.