UNSG report on children and armed conflict—India out in the open

Masroor Ahmad

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Masroor Ahmad

 

This is very unfortunate that the children in conflict zones are facing unspeakable violence whereas in too many conflict situations the parties to conflict have an utter disregard for any measures that could contribute to shielding the most vulnerable from the impact of war. Kashmir and some other parts of India have witnessed too much violations of children rights in recent times. The situation has gone too far that even the UN has admitted the gravity of the matter in its recent report. We need to learn that armed conflicts are no longer fought on well-defined battlefields, but in and around communities. As a result, communities suffer enormous material damage, such as losses of homes, schools, livelihoods, health facilities, and other infrastructure. Children are the future of a community and if a community is left without its future, it is devastated. India is trying to use all psychological means to demoralize Kashmiris by afflicting torture, kidnapping and jailing the minors to continue its illegal occupation Kashmir.

It is great that the United Nation after realizing the state of affairs has taken serious notice of India’s inhuman practices in the Kashmir valley and it has vehemently exposed India through its fact finding report. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed his concern over child casualties’ conflict regions of Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand and urged the government to take preventive measures to protect the children. The United Nations’ Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict (A/74/845–S/2020/525) issued on 9 June 2020 has included India in the list as preparatory of such crimes. The report is a reflection of state policies and their impact on masses. India was charged of Child casualties in Jammu and Kashmir; detention of children, including their arrest during night raids, internment at army camps, torture in detention and detention without charges or due process. Apart from this UNSG has also reported that children’s access to education and health services continues to be of concern due to insurgency, particularly in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand provinces whereas attacks on schools in insurgency areas are also common. UN verified killing of 8 and maiming of 5 children between the age of 1-17 during operations of the Indian The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Intelligence Agencies and Special Joint Operations Groups in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJK). This report also verifies the killing of 23 children on LOC by shelling of Indian security forces from IOJK while on the other side  UN appreciated Pakistan’s efforts to protect the children around LOC.

The Secretary General also took note of the Naxalite insurgency and said that efforts by the Indian government have resulted in a decline in the recruitment, killing and maiming of children. The report urged the Indian government to end and prevent violations against children. It also testifies against Indian policy of atrocities in IOJ&K. Apparently, India seems to be following Israeli model of annexing a group of people/land to increase targeting children through physical or psychological harm. Already the world has reacted to Indian use of pellet guns in IOJK. Detention of children, including their arrest during night raids, internment at army camps, torture in detention and detention without charges or due process has become norm of the day in IOJ&K. As per report children’s access to education and health services continue to be of concern due to insurgency, particularly in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Indian state policy  treats crimes against women and children as a weapon.

 

The Secretary-General’s report on ‘Children and Armed Conflict’ said that the UN had verified over 25,000 grave violations against children globally from January to December 2019, stressing that the tragedy children face continued unabated throughout the year. It is worth notice that globally, over thousands of children are killed or maimed in conflict every year while many thousands are recruited or used as combatants that is very alarming for the civilized world. There are many countries where children are suffering in violent conflicts including India, Myanmar, Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen.

 

War and violence not only disrupt social cohesion, but also wreck the very foundation of communities. Regrettably, the burden of this social transformation falls disproportionately on children. In many armed conflicts, particularly in the protracted ones that last a decade or more, children may grow up with violence as a constant part of their daily lives and have no reference point for conceptualizing peace. Violence affected Kashmir is not an exception.

 

It is welcoming step that the report has recommended some serious actions to be taken by India. It has required India to take preventative measures to protect children, including ending the use of pellets against children. It has also asserted India to systematise age verification of children in detention and immediately end the detention of children. In addition to this, the report has also desired India to put in place national prevention and accountability measures for all grave violations as soon as possible.

 

Since the initiation of armed conflict in Kashmir in 1989, many transformations at the micro and macro level have been evident with disastrous consequences on women and children. The nature of the Kashmir conflict is such that the exposure to actual armed conflict is limited, but its effects on the lives of children and their families are enormous in terms of repression, loss of security, income and service access, disrupted schooling, displacement, physical and psychological traumas among others. The mainstream Pakistani media, people from academia and particularly foreign office of Pakistan being the champion of Kashmir cause should not miss this opportunity to raise voice for the oppressed Kashmiris. In the light of UNSG report, India is out in the open. Thus, it is the moral obligation of foreign missions of Pakistan abroad to play pivotal role in exposing India before the world for such massive level crimes against children in Kashmir and other parts of India by Indian security forces.