As the world marked ‘International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression 2020’ on Thursday, the children seem to be under the greatest threat in the occupied valley of Kashmir, which is facing an unprecedented lockdown amid troop surge ever since the Indian government on Aug 05, 2019, unconstitutionally scrapped Article 370. The ‘International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression’ is observed on June 4 every year.
The main aim behind observing the day is to acknowledge the pain suffered by children across the world, which is caused due to any kind of abuse including physical, mental and emotional. The situation of children in occupied valley of Kashmir is seriously grim. According to a fact finding mission which spent five days in the occupied valley, around 13,000 boys were picked up from their homes in the middle of the night from their beds and were being held indefinitely, illegally, either in army camps or in police stations during the lockdown after the abrogation of Article 370.
The fact finding mission consisted of women rights activist Kavita Krishnan, economist Jean Dreze, Maimoona Mollah from the All India Democratic Women’s Association, the women’s wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and Vimal Bhai, a social activist. Members of the commission went to Srinagar, Sopore, Bandipora, Anantnag, Shopian and Pampore between August 9 and 13 last year. The report by the mission highlights how Indian army officers abducted young boys in night time raids and molested and sexually abused girls during such raids after August 5. ‘Hundreds of boys and teens are being picked up from their beds in midnight raids.
The only purpose of these raids is to create fear. Women and girls told us of molestation by armed forces during these raids. Parents feared meeting us and telling us about the ‘arrests’ (abductions) of their boys. They are afraid of Public Security Act cases being filed. The other fear is that the boys may be ‘disappeared’ – i.e. killed in custody and dumped in mass graves of which Kashmir has a grim history,’ according to the report titled ‘Kashmir Caged: A Fact-Finding Report’, compiled by the mission. The report said the authorities used excessive force when arresting the boys, and that some had been tortured while imprisoned.
‘Army pounces on young boys; it seems they hate their very sight. When fathers go to rescue their children they are made to deposit money, anywhere between 20000 to 60000’. So palpable is their hatred for Kashmiri youth that when there is the dreaded knock on the door of a home, an old man is sent to open it,’ the commission report mentioned. The commission also found and interviewed an 11-year-old kid who had been arrested and beaten up. But the shocking part is that he said that there were children even younger than him in custody. The parents have been unable to find out where their children were or whether they would come back at all. According to another report titled ‘On the Children’s Situation in Jammu & Kashmir Occupied by India’ presented by International Human Rights Association of American Minorities to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, India’s commitment to the cause of children in the occupied territory is simply abysmal.
‘No aspect of a child’s life is spared by the Indian occupation forces and intelligence agencies there simply because of their vulnerability. They are prime victims of multiple physical and emotional abuses and of dangers such as violence and displacement.