By Shah Abbas
Srinagar, India, Dec 14 (EFE).- In the last three years, Indian police have secretly interred more than 560 militants in the hinterland of the Kashmir Valley to prevent mass funerals of slain rebels and keep calm in the troubled region with popular separatist sentiments.
As part of the COVID-19 protocol, the government ceased turning over the remains of militants to their families in March 2020.
However, the practice has persisted since the pandemic’s end.
An anonymous police officer told EFE that the action was taken to prevent people from gathering at the funerals of the fallen militants, which would stir more turmoil in the region, which has been battling an armed insurgency for over three and a half decades.
Thousands of people would assemble for militants’ funeral processions before burying the remains in designated “martyrs’ graveyards” until mid-2019.
Some funeral processions would usually end in anti-government demonstrations.
According to police records, 203 militants were killed in 2020, 184 in 2021, and 180 in 2022.
Military operations have been ongoing in the Muslim-majority area since August 2019, when India revoked the erstwhile state’s semi-autonomous status and partitioned it into two federally governed regions.
Sources told EFE that the authorities designated five locations in the backwoods of Kashmir to bury dead militants.
A resident, who lives close to one such graveyard, told EFE that family members frequently visit these burial places to offer prayers for their loved ones.
“Small gatherings of mourners have become a common sight,” a villager in north Kashmir’s Handwara told EFE. “Mothers can be seen crying over and hugging the graves of their sons.”
Handwara houses two such burial places.
Despite claims by Hindu-nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government that Kashmir has been more normal than ever in the previous three years, violent counter-insurgency operations have continued unabated.
“There is certainly a huge decline in violent incidents,” a police officer told EFE.
He stated that police documented 417 violent incidents in 2018, 229 in 2021, and 123 this year.
In 2022, according to police records, 31 security officers and 31 civilians were killed in the violence.
Last year, the security forces and civilians lost 44 and 41 lives, respectively.
“Law and order situation has vastly improved with stone-pelting incidents and separatist-sponsored strike calls almost disappearing,” the federally-appointed lieutenant governor, Manoj Sinha, said during a function a few days back.
Despite the “normality” claims, the valley has witnessed several targeted killings in the last couple of years.