Villagers identify 2 bodies in J&K grave
6 April 2000
Srinagar: The worst fears of the relatives of the persons missing in south Kashmir proved correct when the exhumation of bodies, said by the security forces to be those of foreign mercenaries, turned out to be those of their kin. Roshan Jan, wife of Juma Khan, was the first — she said her husband was dead when she saw the chin and nose in the first grave, which on further digging revealed a mutilated body. Nazir Dalal, whose uncle Zahoor Ahmad Dalal was also among the missing, shouted in anger when he saw a shirt and sweater, which he said belonged to his uncle, in the same grave. A second grave was dug up at Chogamm where Ghulam Rasool Bhat, whose brother Bashir Ahmad Bhat was also missing, said it was his brother’s body lying in the grave. The rest of the graves, spread over a radius of 2 to 3 km in the Pathribal area where the security forces had claimed to have killed five “foreign mercenaries” involved in the March 20 massacre of 35 Sikhs at Chattisinghpura, will be dug up on Friday. Local villagers had already assembled at the grave sites when the exhumation process started at about 3 pm on Thursday, and were raising slogans against the security forces, demanding action against those responsible. The security forces had said that since those killed had been foreign mercenaries, their identities could not be established. They had claimed that the five men had been killed in a fierce encounter on March 25. This version was challenged by the local villagers, whose kin went missing and did not return. Their doubts were strengthened when the villagers of Pathribal told them that the Army had brought five men, put them into a hut and then blasted the hut with mortar fire at 6 am on March 25. After a series of protest marches across the Valley (the police opened fire on one procession on Monday, killing eight people), Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah ordered the exhumation of the bodies (though a court directive to the same effect had been issued almost a week ago). When a team of doctors, the Anantnag deputy commissioner of police, other senior police officials and state home minister Mushtaq Ahmad Lone reached the spot, they were told that the bodies were buried at three places — two each at Sangian and Chogamm, and one at Vuzukah. It was difficult for the officials to calm the angry relatives and villagers, who threatened to approach Amnesty International. The authorities present said the bodies could not be handed over as the matter was sub judice, and pointed out that DNA and RNA tests were needed to prove the exact identity of the dead.