Sidra Insar Chaudhary
The Covid-19 has put a stop to everything, all conflicts and disputes seem to have been put on hold to fight the invisible enemy. Yet, the oppressors in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJK) continue to use heavy-handed security tactics to crush Kashmir’s identity and culture. In the name of preserving law and order, local political leaders, lawyers, journalists, and business leaders remain under arrest in IOJK. Thousands remain in Jails, among them are kids as young as nine-year old’s who have been picked up from their beds during the night raids on dubious pretexts. India’s chief of defense staff, General Bipin Rawat, has been asking permission to put young Kashmiri children, as young as 10 years of age, under concentration camps to ‘de-radicalize’ them.
The UN’s General Assembly held a special emergency session on 19 August 1982 to discuss the question of Palestine. During the session, Israel’s atrocities against innocent Palestinian and Lebanese Children were highlighted. On account of the number of affected children being high, the UN decided to commemorate 4 June as the International Day of Innocent Children to protect the Rights of Child. Even though this day is being honored for 38 years, this year UN should have highlighted the plight of Kashmiri children who have suffered immensely after PM Modi’s Hindu nationalist government annexed the occupied Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, and has since kept the region in jail-like conditions.
Kashmir has witnessed brutal tactics of Indian law enforcement agencies since the 1940s but the scale and the fierceness of post-August crackdown have never been seen anywhere in the world. Around the world, people were protesting after two months of lockdown where they were allowed to go out to get essential items. But Kashmiris have been living under curfew for nine months now, not being able to go to even the hospitals. There is now one soldier for every nine Kashmiris. The worst affected are the young Kashmiri children who are facing state violence.
According to a report by prominent economists and activists, 13000 young boys have been illegally jailed for more than 45 days in Kashmir without any charge. Most of these children are also being tortured and raped in jails. It also detailed how families were spending up to Rs 60,000 to get their children released. The parents often fear to come out and talk openly as they are afraid that authorities would arrest them on interfering with security charge as well. The report also highlighted that Indian soldiers are molesting young girls and raping women during their night-time raids.
The current generation of children in Kashmir have seen nothing but conflict. During the last decade, huge protests and clashes with security forces have become the norm. Almost all of the young kids in Kashmir have seen their friends killed or taken to jail by the authorities. For over nine months now 1.5 million children of Kashmir remain out of school as virtually every private and public school remains closed. Young Kashmiris are being deprived of educational and professional development, instead, kids have to deal with helplessness, demoralization, and trauma. There is also a severe shortage of food in the valley for the whole population but it is affecting children severely as they need proper nutrition for their growing bodies.
According to Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a human rights organization in IOJK, in fifteen years from 2003-2017, at least 318 children have been killed in IOJK in violence-related incidents. This figure comes out at 6.95 % of all civilians killed in Kashmir in this period, which shows that children were targeted systematically as part of state violence. These heavy-handed tactics are used to instill fear among the general public to stop them from joining the struggle for their freedom.
There is also the use of pellet guns in Kashmir by the Indian armed forces to curb protesters. Children and young people are also the most affected by pellet gun wounds. More than 1000 Kashmiri children have sustained eye injuries from pellet guns. The world also took brief notice of this when in late 2018 a 19- month old child Heeba Jan suffered severe eye injuries after being hit by a fire from a pellet gun. Several human rights groups have since been calling for a ban on these guns in Kashmir but so far India has refused.
The kind of brutal violence being used by the Indian regime is expected to result in a cycle of violence in IOJK as victims of state oppression and their family members turn to violence as a response. Young children who face the Indian state’s violence or see their family members killed or raped, develop vengeance for their loss. The UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child is a legally-binding treaty that outlines the rights of every child. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the global community to protect innocent children of Kashmir from violence so they can have a normal and peaceful childhood.