A human rights group in Indian administered Kashmir says it has located as many as 1,000 unidentified graves across a frontier district in the region. The group says it suspects that the graves may hold the bodies of people who may have been killed by state security agencies during a two-decade-old islamic insurgency. Shahnawaz Khan reports from Srinagar, in Indian administered Kashmir, on the allegations.
Researchers from the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, or APDP, say they found the graves around the town of Uri, near the border that separates Indian and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir.
The human rights group released its findings in a 23-page report last week titled "Facts Underground."
The report is based on accounts by villagers in the region. It was compiled over a period of two years and contains a list of as many as 1,000 nameless graves located in the towns of Boniyar, Uri and Baramulla, in north Kashmir.
APDP says at least 8,000 people have disappeared during the nearly two-decade-old Muslim separatist insurgency in the Kashmir region.
Pervez Imroz, a spokesman for the group, says most of them went missing after being picked up, allegedly, by Indian security agencies.
"We are fearing that people disappeared in the south or east of west, then they are killed and dumped in these areas, and dumped as foreign militants," Imroz said. "This report is an indication of how many mass graves or unidentified graves are in other areas of Kashmir where there are army camps."
Human rights workers have complained for years that innocent people have been killed by government troops in staged gunbattles or arrested as suspected rebels.
Lieutenant Colonel A.K. Mathur, is a spokesman for the Indian army in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir. He dismissed the allegations, saying they are intended to malign the army.
"The army has nothing to do with the burial of people," he said. "Any militant we kill on the line of control we hand over to police for identification and cremation. (The) army has nothing to say about these graves."
The Indian government says most of the people who disappeared are Kashmiri youths who crossed into neighboring Pakistan for weapons training.
But the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons says that in the majority of cases of people who have disappeared were detained during crackdowns.
Pervez Imroz, a spokesman for the group, says the number of graves and the accounts of local villagers makes a strong case for an investigation.
"We are saying let there be a probe," Imroz said. "Since the last 10 years the APDP has been telling the government to probe the disappearances, as has been done in other countries. Like in Latin American countries or in Nepal, they are holding a probe. So now at least through this report we are challenging the government to hold a probe into these graves. Who they are, whose graves they are. Let them identify."
Last year Indian authorities charged seven policemen with murdering five civilians in staged gunbattles and trying to pass them off as foreign militants to claim rewards and promotions.
The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons lists 38 cases in its report where exhumation has belied police claims.