February 2016 News

Why A Village In Kashmir Refused To Bury The Dead Bodies Of Pakistani Militants

8 February 2016
Sameer Yasir

Trikanjan: Nestled deep inside the Pir Panjal mountains in north Kashmir's Baramulla district, Badion Trikanjan, a non-descript village has refused to bury the dead bodies of three Pakistani militants killed in an encounter at Hajin Bandipora last week. The residents of Badion, a hamlet of perhaps a hundred tin-roofed houses among terraced fields on left of the Jhelum river in Uri - 95 kilometres north of Srinagar - the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, say they are worried about the future of their children who might be attracted to militancy, if foreign militants are buried in their village. On Friday, when police brought dead bodies of three militants of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) - an Islamist terrorist group based in Pakistan that fights mainly in Kashmir- killed in an encounter with security forces in Hajin area of Bandipora, the residents of this hamlet came on streets and stopped police from burying the dead bodies of Pakistani militants. Early on Sunday morning, Khazeer Mohammad, walked down a pine tree-lined hilly road curiously looking at the five unmarked graves, which were buried here last year, sand witched between tall pine trees on the left side of the road which goes to the last village on the Line of Control between India and Pakistan in Kashmir. Mohammad said the police first brought the two militants killed on the LoC, when they were trying to infiltrate and then three more, whom the villagers allowed to be buried behind an empty single-storey government building. But then they brought three more and that led to palpable tension between the police and the villagers. 'When they brought three new dead bodies again on Friday we told them (police) this is a peaceful area, tomorrow when young people of this village look at these graves, their blood will start boiling. They will take a wrong step towards (militancy). And for that reason, we didn't allowed them to bury the dead bodies here.' Mohammad, 47, a resident of the village told Firstpost. 'We don't want this to become another Chahal and be branded as a place for unmarked graves. No one is sure who these people are,' another resident, Ghulam Hussain Khan, said. Khan was referring to the village of Chahal, five kilometers west of Trikanjan, where more than 235 dead bodies brought by the police and army were buried, and almost all of them remained unidentified. There is hardly any space left in the graveyard today for people to be buried. And the man, Atta Mohammad Khan, a farmer-turned-gravedigger, who performed the duty of digging the graves religiously for 20 years, died in January this year. Before that, most of the foreign militants and unidentified people killed in encounters and gunfights - people whose dead bodies no one would claim in Kashmir - were brought to Kitchama, a village four Kilometers south of Chahal, that graveyard too become filled with 'militants'. And then the police ultimately stopped getting bodies to the village. The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), in an official inquiry report on unmarked graves in 2011, had said there are 2,156 unidentified bodies buried in 38 graveyards across five districts of north Kashmir. The inquiry has also found 18 such graves in which more than one body is buried. After the villagers refuse to bury the dead bodies of three militants on Friday in Trikanjan, the police was forced to bury these three LeT men near a police station in Boniyar. 'Whenever there is an encounter in any district of Kashmir (recently), they get the dead bodies and bury them here. The young generation of this place, when they look at these young boys (who are killed by security forces in encounters) think they also should go to Pakistan. That is the reason we are saying we won't allow the dead bodies to be buried here,' 29-year-old sarpanch of Trikanjan village, Raja Shahid, told Firstpost. The refusal by this village has put the police in a dilemma over where to bury the foreign nationals - killed in gunfight with security forces in Kashmir - now. Gareeb Das, the deputy inspector-general of police in Baramulla said if the dead bodies are allowed to be handed over to the locals in any place, it becomes a law and order problem for the police. Since there are no legal claimants, we bury them in far-off places. 'In this case, we didn't want to have a confrontation with local people. We passed instructions to the local police not to use any kind of force on the people. We don't want to get them in trouble, as we are sensitive to the demands of the people,' Das told Firstpost in Baramulla. 'Their faces were disfigured; they were from LeT and killed in an encounter in Hajin. It was a recent group that had infiltrated into this side (of the LoC),' he added.