Since 2020, Indian authorities have been burying suspected rebels in unmarked graves, denying families appropriate burials and increasing anger against India

On a cool winter day in Indian-administered Kashmir, Mushtaq Ahmed Wani was shoveling the earth and laboriously digging a grave for his teenage son, but there was no body to sink inward

Stunned, a group of spectators watched in silence. But Ahmed continued digging, now knee-deep in the half-dug grave

“I want my son’s body,” he howled, “I ask India to return my son’s body to me”

Mushtaq Ahmed Wani, father of 16-year-old Ather Mushtaq [Dar Yasin / AP Photo] Police said government forces fatally shot Ahmed’s 16-year-old son Ather Mushtaq Wani and two other young men when they refused on Jan. December on the outskirts of the city of Srinagar surrender they described the men as “hardcore workers of terrorists” who were against Indian rule

However, the men’s families insist that they were not armed rebels and were killed in cold blood

“It was a false encounter,” shouted a grieving Ahmed as the crowd gathered around him in the cemetery in southern Bellow Village shouted slogans demanding justice

As part of a policy begun in 2020, Indian authorities have buried several Kashmiri rebels in unmarked graves and denied their families proper burials.The policy has contributed to widespread anger against India in the disputed region

Relatives of suspected rebels killed by Indian forces visit in this photo dated Sept. November 2020 opened a cemetery in Sonamarg, a remote mountain town in India-administered Kashmir.The picturesque tourist spot where a small mound intended for the corpses of the rebels began to be small in April has almost filled up since then [File: Aijaz Hussain / AP Photo] India has long relied on armed forces to maintain control of the part of Kashmir it administers. It has fought two wars over the region with Pakistan, which also claims mountainous areas An armed insurrection since 1989 against Indian control and subsequent action by the Indians, tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government troops have been killed

In August 2019, India revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status, prevented curfews and communications outages, and arrested thousands, sparking outrage and economic ruin. consider in the volatile region

Kashmiris have for years accused Indian troops of attacking civilians and abuse of power with impunity. Troops were accused of shooting shootings and then saying the victims were “militants” in order to seek rewards and promotions

Ather’s assassination came months after the rare admission of misconduct by the Indian military, who admitted soldiers exceeded their legal authority in the deaths of three local men originally referred to as “Pakistani terrorists”

Police have concluded that an Indian army officer and two civilian “army sources” killed the three men “after they had stripped their identities and marked them as hardcore terrorists” The officer was charged with murder

Zarqa Mushtaq, center, shows the test slip of her 11-year-old brother Ather Mushtaq on a mobile phone in the 11th grade Great as her father, Mushtaq Ahmed Wani, views the fears and anger of [Dar Yasin / AP Photo] Kashmiris. Such incidents have been exacerbated by the new policy of not identifying those killed or their associates and refusing to return their bodies to their families

Authorities say policies are aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus, but right-wing activists and local residents say it is an attempt by the government to avoid grand funerals that are fueling more resentment against India

Police Inspector General Vijay Kumar said in a recent interview with the Hindu newspaper that the policy “not only stopped the spread of COVID infections, it also stopped the glorification of terrorists and potential legal issues and has avoided order “

However, authorities have not stopped government sponsored funerals for government forces killed in the fight against the rebels

“Not returning the bodies of those killed is a humiliation for humanity,” said Zareef Ahmed Zareef, a civil rights activist and prominent Kashmiri poet

Distraught families of rebels and civilians killed by government forces have repeatedly called for authorities to allow final rituals and proper burials in ancestral villages under Muslim beliefs, the pleas have been repeatedly dismissed

A woman offers flowers when relatives of suspected rebels killed by government forces visit a cemetery in Sonamarg, a remote mountain town in Kashmir [File: Aijaz Hussain / AP Photo] Families have sometimes discreetly visited the remote cemeteries and the graves of their relatives marked with stones and their names scribbled with brushes

By last April, Indian armed forces had handed over the bodies of suspected rebels to their relatives for funeral. Since then, according to police, 158 suspected rebels have been buried in isolated locations

On 30 On December 12th, when Ahmed received news of his son’s murder, he rushed to a police facility in Srinagar, where Ather’s body was being kept. When the police later transported the body with those of the other two men to a remote mountain for burial, Ahmed followed / p>

On the way he was stopped several times, but asked the Indian armed forces to let him see his son’s face one last time, he said. When he finally reached the tomb, he was shocked

Ahmed said the graves were dug by an earthmoving machine, contrary to traditional practice in which they were dug from shovels and generally marked with marble headstones

“They weren’t digging graves, they were hastily digging pits,” he said, “I myself lowered my son into this pit”

Tears roll down the cheeks of seven year old Mahira Nazir, cousin of 16 year old Ather Mushtaq [Dar Yasin / AP Photo] Experts and legal activists say refusing to return bodies to families is a crime

“It is a total violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions,” said Parvez Imroz, a well-known human rights attorney, “This is even against local law”

Ather’s killing and burial in the distance caused public mourning Thousands called for the bodies to be returned on social media

In his family’s simple home in Bellow, mourners surrounded Athers grieving mother. His sister shouted, “Mother, have patience, he will come back. He promised me he will”

Journalists have been attacked and press freedom restricted since India revoked Kashmir’s special status last year

The Gujjar community says their trees – an important source of livelihood – were felled as part of the government’s clearance

“The repression doesn’t last,” my grandfather – now 91 years old and in poor health – tells me as the police line the streets outside


World News – CA – “I ask India to return my son’s body”: Kashmir’s teenage father