Tragic Denial of Burial Rites in Occupied Kashmir

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Denial of burial rites is a phenomenon that has been taking place in Indian Occupied Kashmir for a very long time. It has profound and long-lasting implications for the Kashmiri families who have to experience such a harsh reality. The act of burying someone is not just putting their body in the ground. It is also a way for families to connect with their loved ones who have passed away. This connection can be felt both emotionally and spiritually, and it can last for many generations.

By denying the Kashmiri families burial rites, the Indian occupation forces violate the religious traditions of the Kashmiris. When burial rites are denied, it is a disruption in their life. When Indian armed forces brutally kill Kashmiri people and bury them in mass graves, the psychological consequences for the Kashmiri families left behind are dire and dreadful. The effects of denying access to corpses and burial rites on Kashmiri families are discussed in the following lines.

When faced with such harsh consequences, grief is the natural response of an innocent Kashmiri. It generally has four stages; being in a state of shock, being sad, being angry, and finally being able to accept the consequences and move on. This is a proper four-stage process that they go through to deal with tragedies. However, in the case of denial of access to corpses and burial rites, the Kashmiri families are left hanging in the third stage. They are not offered a closure. It becomes a permanent trauma for them. The case of Syed Ali Shah Geelani is a prime example of grief disruption. He was under house arrest and when he passed away, Indian armed forces invaded his house and forcibly took away his body. His family was not allowed to bury him according to their religious traditions and that grief disruption exists to this day for them.

Furthermore, detachment from the deceased is an essential part of the psychological process of healing and moving on for the Kashmiri families. When they do not know where the bodies of their loved ones are resting, they are unable to detach from this fact. It haunts them psychologically. Thus, the inability to detach from this harsh fact hinders their ability to cope with this loss. This also stops them from carrying on with their lives positively, they will always have to carry this burden with them. For instance, Mushtaq Ahmad, who is the father of a 16-year-old dead son, was struck by a harsh reality on 3rd November 2020. On a chilly winter day, he was tirelessly digging up a grave of his own killed son. People around started watching him. He dug the grave knee-deep, turned around, and said, “I want my son’s body back. I want India to return it”. To his surprise, the grave had no body at all. The psychological trauma that he, as a father, had to go through is immense. No father deserves to be kept in a state in which he does not know where his son is buried. He is unable to detach from the death incident of his son. The brutal occupation by the Indian forces has changed the Kashmir dispute into a humanitarian crisis.

Moreover, the way Kashmiri people bury their loved ones and the customs they follow are important for their identity and feeling like they belong in their community. These deep rituals help them understand important things about life, for instance, why it’s meaningful, why death will happen, and where they fit in the world. When things happen that stop families from burying their loved ones in the way their culture or religion says, it can make them feel very confused and lost. This situation can make the family feel like they don’t belong to their culture or have the same spiritual beliefs anymore. Not having a proper burial of their loved one can make them feel like no one cares about them and like they do not belong to the community. When they go through a lot of emotional struggles, it can make them start to question who they are, what they believe in, and why they exist. They might lose their faith in religion and God because of this inhumane treatment. Thus, an identity crisis strikes them out of nowhere. They begin to question their own religion and God because of the inhumane treatment their daughters and sons had to go through.

For instance, the case of Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai was a source of identity crisis for his own family left behind. He was detained in July 2020, under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and imprisoned without any charge against him. He was the President of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, which is a pro-freedom political party in Kashmir. On 5th May, he was pronounced dead by the Indian authorities. His family claims that his proper care was not taken and he was not allowed to meet his family for 5 months. After his death, the family was allowed to conduct a small funeral, and only 20 people were allowed in that, the police ordered. Many of the family members and loved ones could not see his face for one last time.

The denial of burial rites in Kashmir by the Indian armed forces does not only violate the religious traditions but it also makes the conflict a humanitarian crisis. It has harsh consequences for the Kashmiri families. This practice leaves the families of the dead in a state where they do not get to have a proper closure and move on in their lives. The psychological trauma of not knowing the whereabouts of their loved ones haunts them and keeps them in a state of consistent pain.

The writer is a student of Peace and Conflict Studies at National Defense University, Islamabad and is currently serving as an intern at Kashmir Institute of International Relations.

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Disclaimer: Tragic Denial of Burial Rites in Occupied Kashmir - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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