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Don't delay justice anymore

The people of Kashmir Valley are wounded physically, socially, culturally and psychologically due to the long turmoil. The afflictions are deeply engraved in the hearts and minds of the people. Kashmiris (living on both the sides of tunnel) are left with only questions. Questions which haven't been answered till date; questions which are directly related to the lives of people; questions about human rights, justice and truth! Already many years have passed; it is high time we seek answers. The answers need to be sought.

So many lives lost; so many disappeared; so many hounded out of their homes and what not!  As per Jammu & Kashmir government, 43460 people are killed in Kashmir insurgency in last 21 years (January 1990 - April 2011). Of these 21323 are militants, 13226 are civilians killed by militants, 3642 civilians are killed by security forces and 5369 policemen are killed by militants.

According to the figures available with the government, there are 27000 widows and 22000 children orphaned during militancy. But figures of independent sources are higher than those government figures. According to Prof Bashir Ahmad Dabla, head of the department of sociology, University of Kashmir, there are 32,400 widows and 97,000 to 1,00,000 orphans in the Valley.

As per Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, more than 70,000 people have been killed in Kashmir since 1989; around 8,000 people have disappeared; and at least 25,000 children have been orphaned.  The Jammu & Kashmir State Human Rights Commission's (SHRC) recent report on unmarked graves in Kashmir have invited more questions. More than 2,000 unmarked graves are found in Baramulla, Kupwara, and Bandipore districts of north Kashmir. Around 3,800 unmarked graves have been reported in Poonch and Rajouri districts of the state.

Many people in valley believe that there is possibility of disappeared people buried in the graves. It should be noted that the unidentified foreign militants who were killed in the Valley by security forces are also buried in unmarked graves. Another possibility is that some disappeared ones may be living across the border.

At the same time, the recent report cannot be negated. Whether the buried ones are terrorists or civilians, the truth should come out. J&K SHRC has directed the Jammu and Kashmir government to constitute an "independent, duly representative, credible, structured and fully empowered" body to "investigate and identify the people buried in unmarked graves and to prosecute the perpetrators".

The long-standing issue of the return and rehabilitation of the exiled Kashmiri Pandits (without any compromises on their religious identity, safety and their political interests) ought to be addressed.  Around 4 lakh Kashmiri Pandits were hounded out of their homes due to this turmoil and thousands were killed. Some put the present figure of the exiles at 7.5 lakh. There hasn't been any commission/enquiry on the ethnic cleansing and genocide of minority Pandits which led to their exodus from the Valley. Moreover, the persecutors are roaming free in Kashmir.

The veil over bitter truth needs to be lifted. The facts need to be produced and presented to the people. And on the basis of facts, justice must be delivered. Truth and Reconciliation Commission can be a step towards finding the facts and in building confidence of people in democratic institutions of the state. It's been almost eight months since Chief Minister Omar Abdullah favoured the idea of the constitution of Truth and Reconciliation Commission to look into the killings, disappearances, and internal displacement etc of people.

Nothing has been done on ground for the setting up of the commission. The onus lies on state government to start such a commission and the Centre should provide all necessary help in setting up the same. The approach should be in the direction of justice. The step towards truth and reconciliation will be a step towards justice, and ultimately, towards peace.

Kashmir needs justice irrespective of religion, caste or creed. The wounds need to be healed. The wounded lives need a closure. More than two decades have passed. As justice delayed is justice denied, don't delay the justice anymore.

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