Buried Evidence: Mass Graves of Kashmiris Abducted And Killed By Indian Army
The Indian occupation of Kashmir is often called a “low intensity conflict,” a military concept that came into vogue in the 1980s during US wars in Central America. It wasn’t really a new way of waging war but a military public relations gimmick devised to circumvent massive international antiwar sentiment prevailing from the Vietnam War. That opposition called the “Vietnam Syndrome” was considered a pathology that needed to be overcome and such gimmicks were part of that.
There’s no way over 700,000 Indian troops in Kashmir with a population of 4 million people can be considered low intensity warfare any more than US use of Israeli-armed death squads & proxy guerrilla forces were in Central America. The only military element that seems to be missing is aerial bombing. By that definition, the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank are also low intensity conflicts–though,not of course Gaza. There’s nothing low intensity for those subjected daily to occupation & barbarism like extrajudicial executions, torture, mass rapes, mass incarcerations without due process, and totaling an estimated 70,000 murdered, thousands kidnapped and disappeared by Indian forces.
One of the most active political forces in Kashmir is the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) co-founded in 1995 and led by Parveena Ahangar, known as “the iron lady of Kashmir” for her fearless & steely determination in mobilizing family members of the disappeared. Ahangar, who was married quite young and has no formal education, became an activist in 1990 when her 17-year-old son, Javed Ahmad Ahangar, was picked up by the Indian army during a night raid and disappeared.
The APDP estimates that between 8,000 and 10,000 people have disappeared in Kashmir since 1989. They hold monthly rallies in Srinagar demanding the Indian government answer for those arrested, tortured, murdered, and dumped in unmarked mass graves. They recently released a 2016 calendar with sketches for each month showcasing one of the young men disappeared. The photo here is three pages from that calendar.
The APDP was part of The International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights & Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir (ITPK) which issued a report titled “Buried Evidence” about their investigation between November 2006 and November 2009 of 2,700 unmarked mass graves. It’s an absolutely gruesome report where the investigators report being intimidated and threatened by Indian military personnel; were refused access to entire districtsb to examine unmarked graves; were unable to identify many bodies because of evidence of disfiguring torture; interviewed gravediggers commandeered by the Indian military who remained traumatized at what they witnessed and were forced to do.
The ITPK interviewed community people who saw bodies thrown in rivers and found evidence that many disappeared were transported to places like Gujarat in India proper, executed and buried there.
The Kashmiri struggle is vilified by Indian government claims that foreign militants and terrorists are crossing the border and infiltrating, especially from Pakistan. They use this to justify summary executions and explain away the numbers of those in unmarked graves. Even if they were foreign operatives, whatever happened to due process? The idiocy of the claim is exposed by the presence of 700,000 military personnel not against foreign militants but against the Kashmiri people.
The investigation found that most victims of disappearance were men and young boys, and few women victims. It’s a particular form of social control and malignancy that targets males to terrify and leave behind women and vulnerable children. What is remarkable is the steely resolve of Kashmiri women who have been so determined in standing up against mass rapes by the Indian military ( another form of social control) against disappearances.