In a significant development of far reaching consequences, Jammu and Kashmir's apex rights panel on Wednesday ordered the first exhumation of an unmarked grave in a border village and DNA matching of its remains.
The tate human rights commission directed the district magistrate of north Kashmir's Kupwara district to exhume a body buried in Kanipora (Kalaroos) village in July 2003 and examine whether it is that of Mohammad Yusuf Bhat, then aged 14 and a resident of Anderbugh Lolab village of the same district.
"The district magistrate concerned will order exhumation of the dead body from the particular grave which in this instant case is identifiable under the supervision of a magistrate and thereafter, a DNA test will be conducted," the rights panel said.
"In case the results received match with the parents or relatives of the subject then the state government/district administration shall sanction and pay ex-gratia to the next of kin," the panel said.
"Further the investigation of the missing report which stands already lodged in the police station Lalpora Kupwara be re-opened and taken to logical end so that the culprits are shown the doors of the court", the commission said in its landmark judgement.
The father of the missing boy had filed an FIR with a local police station alleging that his son had been kidnapped when he had gone to attend a religious discourse along with two of his friends in July 2003.
"While two of my son's friends managed to escape from the illegal custody of their kidnappers, but my son Mohammad Yusuf Bhat was killed by the army", the father had alleged.
Elders in Kanipora (Kalaroos) village have confirmed to the SHRC that an unidentified boy was buried in the village graveyard in July 2003 whose clothes and belongings were later identified by the victim's father to have belonged to his missing son.
A report filed before the SHRC by the state police had briefly said the boy had crossed over to the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) in 2003 for obtaining training in firearms and was still there.
It must be mentioned that there are hundreds of unmarked graves at many places in the border areas of Jammu and Kashmir wherein parents and families of missing persons fear their loved ones could have been buried after their alleged extra judicial murders by the security forces.
The state government has said the tradition of marking graves with tomb stones etc is essentially an urban tradition and scores of graveyards in Kashmir countryside are full of unmarked graves which means such graves do not necessarily belong to persons killed after their forced disappearance.
State chief minister Omar Abdullah has earlier welcomed the decision to undertake the DNA matching of such unmarked graves where suspicions have been raised that these might contain bodies of persons killed after their forced disappearances.