PM urged to address issue of Kashmir mass graves

New Delhi, Sept 30 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been urged to set a time-frame for identifying the bodies found in mass graves in Jammu and Kashmir and setting up an independent commission to prosecute the guilty.

The demand was contained in a letter sent by think tank Centre for Policy Analysis. A copy has been marked to Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

The letter, signed by 20 eminent persons, including veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar, activist Anuradha Roy, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and author Githa Hariharan, voices surprise at the “silence of the UPA government” on the Jammu and Kashmir Human Rights Commission’s Report that has confirmed the existence of mass graves in the state.

After a three-year investigation, the commission has confirmed the presence of 2,730 bodies in these graves.

The letter criticizes the government for “apathy and indifference” which has created “tremendous anger and alienation amongst the people of Jammu and Kashmir, who are traumatized over the denial of justice”.

Thousands of Kashmiris have “disappeared” over the years, with most remaining untraced till date.

The letter asks the prime minister to take concrete steps to address the issue, that includes fast and immediate identification of the bodies found in the mass graves.

It asks the government to set up an independent Commission, as suggested by the state Human Rights Commission, to enquire into the circumstances that led to the existance of the unmarked mass graves.

“The commission should be authorized to pinpoint responsibility and prosecute those found guilty for the death of innocent persons. It should be headed by a former justice of the Supreme Court,” the letter says.

The think tank has suggested that all efforts be made to contact the kith and kin of those killed, whose dignity should be respected through the payment of compensation and rehabilitation.

Calling for an immediate withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and draconian laws to make the security forces unaccountable, the letter suggests the setting up of a commission to look into the wider issue of enforced disappearances.