[JURIST] Kashmir’s Chief Minister Omar Abdullah [personal website] announced on Tuesday that officials will carry out DNA tests on the thousands of bodies recently uncovered in unmarked graves in the country’s northern region. Abdullah called for families of missing persons to provide DNA samples [BBC report] for testing. The announcement comes after Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called on leaders in the disputed region of Kashmir and Jammu to form an independent panel to take steps to identify bodies [press release, PDF]. Last month, more than 2,000 unidentified bodies were found in mass and single graves in the India-controlled region of the disputed territory by the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) [official website]. The SHRC has called for an investigation into the identities of the remains, but, according to AI, their calls have been ignored.
It is … imperative that [members of the legislative assembly] call upon the government to ensure that sufficient resources are provided on an urgent basis for such identification by an independent body. The state government must also ensure that all past and current allegations of enforced disappearances are promptly, thoroughly, independently and impartially investigated and that, where there is sufficient evidence, anyone suspected of responsibility for such crimes is prosecuted in proceedings which meet international fair trial standards.
An additional 574 bodies were found, but those have been identified by local residents.
In May, a report [text, PDF] released by AI alleged that hundreds of people are being held without charge [JURIST report] or trial in Kashmir and Jammu. AI reported that India’s Public Safety Act (PSA) [text] is being used to detain people despite the absence of sufficient evidence for a trial. Over the last decade, between 8,000 and 20,000 people have been detained through the PSA, including 322 between January and September 2010. The PSA only applies to Kashmir and Jammu, a state that has been rife with unrest since it became part of India [JURIST report] in the middle of the twentieth century. Kashmir and Jammu, which is officially part of India, has been disputed between Pakistan and India since 1947. Claims by both Pakistan and India to the territory have resulted in several conflicts in the region, particularly the Indo-Pakistan wars of 1947-1948 and 1965. In addition, there was a large show of military force by both nations in the region in 2002 that caused international alarm because both nations have nuclear weapons. India has sought to stifle unrest and a burgeoning separatist movement in the region by detaining human rights and political activists.