If you watched Haider, you would remember how the protagonist, while looking for his father, goes to three old men digging their own graves. They show Shahid the unmarked graves and help him identify his father.
The characters from the film are said to be inspired by a real man in Kashmir – Atta Mohammad, who for many years buried unclaimed corpses near the Line of Control. These bodies would otherwise have not received a respectable burial.
Muhammad died on Sunday, at the age of 74, of kidney failure in his village Bimyar around 80 km from Srinagar.
The death of a grave digger isn’t the stuff of headlines, but Mohammad was no ordinary one. In his lifetime, he buried as many as 235 bullet-ridden bodies he received near the Line of Control.
These bodies were never identified, as the armed forced always claimed they were militants killed in encounters. The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) said that he had once found the body of a six-month-old girl, reports India Today.
The APDP is a 20-year-old association of people in Kashmir that tries to find their missing relatives who got missing in armed forces’ custody.
Khurram Pervez, a human rights activist in the valley, told Scoopwhoop, “He was deeply traumatised after he learnt that one of the buried dead bodies was of his nephew.”
Mohammad’s son Manzoor said to Scoopwhoop, “My father used to get nightmares and often woke up in the middle of the night.”
Manzoor added that the family was threatened many times by the police and government officials. “The sarpanch of our tehsil warned us against talking to media personnel,” he said.
Mohammed became a household name in Kashmir in 2008 after the APDP came out with a report that there were 940-1,000 nameless graves of unidentified bodies in various districts of Jammu and Kashmir. The government has no records to prove the identity of these unidentified persons.
Pervez lamented the fact that no organisation came forward to support when he got seriously ill.
See this video to learn more about Muhammad and the phenomenon of unmarked graves in Kashmir: