This summer has been one of less discontent than earlier ones in Kashmir. With this, there is a glimmer of hope that things could be turning around in the volatile state. This is why it is important that the potentially explosive issue of 2,156 unidentified bodies in mass graves be resolved quickly and transparently. The Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission, after a three-year investigation, has revealed the existence of these graves, something which has been seized upon by the Opposition in the state as well as the hardliners like Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Chief minister Omar Abdullah has promised DNA testing to identify the bodies and has asked the relatives of those missing to come forward and give samples.
But, it was somewhat disheartening that he referred to this process as one which will take some time. This is not a luxury that Kashmir has if it wants to build on this period of relative calm. The three interlocutors - Dileep Padgaonkar, MM Ansari and Radha Kumar - have submitted their report after having consulted a wide range of people in the state. This could also be another building block towards a durable peace. Pakistan’s capacity to make mischief is somewhat diminished today as it fights to keep its head above the water and fend off allegations of collusion with terror groups from its chief ally, the United States. The one area where Mr Abdullah has failed in is to rein in the security forces who seem to be a law unto themselves. The killing of a mentally challenged person and claiming that he was a dreaded terrorist some time ago, as well as the random harassment and murders of innocent civilians have led to people losing faith in the government. So, it is incumbent on Mr Abdullah’s government now to address these issues comprehensively even as it goes about unraveling the mystery of the unmarked graves.
The question of human rights violations in the state has already been debated in the British House of Commons earlier this month. Of course, it would be easy to tell the British that we do not require this heartwarming interest in our internal affairs and that they would do better to set their own house in order. But a more positive approach would be to set things right here and ensure some closure for those who have been seeking their missing relatives for years. This would give India greater legitimacy in both internal and international forums. With winter approaching and a greater decrease in militant activity, now would be a good time to press ahead to resolve many contentious issues in the state. If this is not done, we can expect stormy weather to follow this brief burst of sunshine.