Chahal (Baramulla), Dec 09: Atta Muhammad has buried 235 bodies of unidentified people. But it was the burial of a six-month-old baby girl in 2002 that brought tears to his eyes for the first time.
“She was brought here by policemen in a vehicle and handed over to me for burial. I buried her as per the Islamic rites. The girl was not more than six months old,” the 75-year-old grave digger says in a choked voice.
“When I took her for burial bath, I saw a bullet wound near her belly. That was for the first time I wept while burying somebody.”
The infant’s body is among the 250 bodies buried in one of the valley’s biggest graveyard of unidentified people at village Chahal in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.
The girl is buried in the third row of the graveyard. “Nobody came to claim her body since I buried her,” says Atta.
Most of the people he buried here since 2000 were young men.
“All of them were young and most of them had bullet injuries.”
They are now haunting the aged grave digger. “I can’t sleep, as faces of those I have buried come to haunt me. I am losing my eyesight now, but still I see them in dreams.”
Four graves bear the headstones after the bodies buried in them were identified by their family members.
“Their family members came and asked me to exhume the bodies. I refused. Then they did it on their own and identified their relatives. There are just four such graves, rest are still unidentified,” says Atta.
Meanwhile, human rights activists say the revelation of the grave of the infant girl contradicts the claims of the government and security agencies.
Coordinator JK Coalition of Civil Society, Khuram Pervez termed the development as an eye-opener for the government, especially police, who claim that only militants were buried in these graves.
“The presence of such a grave contradicts police and government claims. We are not saying that all the bodies buried in the unidentified graves are those of disappeared people, but there may be some of them buried in them as well,” said Pervez.
Chairperson, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), Parveena Ahanger said it was really shocking that a six-month-old baby girl was buried there.
“Those who brought her must be having proper records who she is and where from she was brought,” she said.
As for the missing youth, Ahanger said they were picked up by the security agencies and APDP can’t declare them dead.
Former chairman, State Human Rights Commission, Justice (Retd) Syed Bashirudin said the Commission should take suo moto cognizance of the case.
“The Commission has full powers to start an independent inquiry about the girl child. It has to be found who she is,” he said.
Bashirudin said the report about unmarked graves, which the Commission has made public, has not pointed out who is buried in them.
“We have called for an independent investigation to ascertain the truth,” he said.
According to the SHRC report released early this year, there are 2156 unidentified graves at 38 sites in Kashmir.
It may be recalled that the issue triggered ripples catching the attention of world community besides prompting the chief minister Omar Abdullah to make a statement in the State Legislature in Srinagar. “There are no mass graves. Yes there are unmarked graves in Kashmir. Most of the people buried in them are those killed while crossing the LoC,” he told the House in September.
He also asked the APDP to come for DNA mapping to end suspicion whether their loved ones were buried in those graves.
In 2009, APDP had come up with a full-fledged report on unmarked graves under the title ‘Buried Evidence’. According to the report, there were 2700 graves across Kashmir of which 2373 were unmarked.-Rising Kashmir