On 27th April 2017, Sameer Ahmed Bhat (17) a class 12 student along with his school mates was peacefully sloganeering inside the campus of his school against the Indian state for killing Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, a local Hizbul Mujahideen commander. Indian paramilitary forces barged into the campus, fired indiscriminately and Sameer was hit in the head. His skull is fractured and the pieces of the skull bone have penetrated into his brain. He is battling for life at ICU of SMHS Hospital, Srinagar. He is critical and counting his days.
Earlier, in summer uprising of 2016, Insha Malik, a 9th class student lost her vision. Pellets pierced her eyes when Indian forces were target fired her as she was looking out from the first floor of her home. Besides Insha, dozens have lost their eye sight. The official data provided by the Srinagar based hospitals for the last year reveal that more than 500 pellet victims with ocular pellet gun injuries were students aged under-20.
Children’s right to safe and secure education in Indian administered Kashmir is denied under different pretexts of law and order. Schools continue being used for military purposes and paramilitary forces are stationed in the educational institutions in contravention to the international law. More than 30 schools have been burnt in the last year.
To the utter disregard to international norms, the state is authoritatively declaring the closure of schools, colleges and universities on routine basis. In the last 30 day, educational institutions remained locked on government orders. The state fears the students’ protests against their rights violations. Forces trample the campus boundaries and fire tear shells to weaken the resolve of students for their political rights.
Sexual abuse of children has been a systemic military practice under the Indian rule. From 13 years old rape victim of infamous Kunan Poshpora case to the rape of Asiya (17) and Nelofar (21) by the state forces. The rape and murder of Asiya and Nelofar caused a civil agitation and a collective revolt of the people in 2009. The voices went unheard and justice is yet a dream after 8 years.
Children continue to die under the Indian administration of Kashmir. Among the 145 civilian deaths in 2016 as reported by Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a human rights group that documents cases of rights violations in IHK, majority have been the youth. In 2010, 112 persons were killed when security forces fired at civilian protests in different places across Kashmir valley and more than half of the killed were the teen agers. They included the 17-year-old Taufail Mattoo who was killed by security forces on June 11, 2010 after they fired a tear gas canister at him. Tufail's death led to widespread protests and triggered massive summer unrest then. The political quagmire is eating young generation on regular basis.
The activities of pro freedom groups also lead to the crisis for children. Strike calls and long marches called by pro-freedom groups have always impacted the children free living and learning. The recruitments by the militant organisations has never found a bar of age, and children have been recruited to fight the Indian state. Faizan Ahmad, the youngest recruit to militancy, aged 15 was killed along with militant commander Sabzar Bhat on 29 April 2017.
There are fatherless children in Indian administered Kashmir. The records of internationally recognised body, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) reveal the number of disappeared persons around 8000, and decades have passed and the state has failed to reveal the whereabouts of their children. A new term, half widows has developed in IHK for women whose husbands have been subjected to enforced disappearance, and their children struggle to identify themselves as fatherless or orphans.
The conflicts around the world have inherent potential for disregard to children’s rights. Like the conflicts elsewhere, the children of IHK have very high vulnerabilities to killings, torture, sexual abuses and denial of excess to stress free education. There is no death of data suggesting conflict induced problems of social disruption, harassment and intimidation, violations of civil and political rights, peer pressure faced in juvenile stage, loss of parents, post traumatic conditions and dissociative disorders among the teen agers in IAK.
The physical, mental and emotional abuses under the structures of occupation are, however yet to be recognised and addressed by the international community. No productive attempts to free children of Kashmir conflict from the pain and prejudice are being made.
While UN is commemorating June 4 with a concern, the sufferings of the Kashmiri children due to the aggressive nature of conflict must not go unrecognized.
The Kashmiri children feel deprived of the international attention and are losing faith in world institutions. The rising feelings of disregard by the global community is making the youth of IHK more aggressive and revolting. The students on streets fighting the forces with stones in their hands are the glaring example of how the behaviours are changing. World must intervene, no matter how the states contextualise the happenings.
On this day, there is an urgency to call upon India to ban pellet guns that have caused an epidemic of blind eyes and to stop the closure of schools and colleges and allow students the freedom to express their political opinions. Release of all the student prisoners and an end to the draconian laws like Public safety act must be ensured. India and Pakistan must engage in a productive conversation and resolve the seventy year old problem that has cost the children their future.
Already more than 80,000 people have died in this disputed region and three wars have been fought, delay in the conflict resolution shall only lead to more deaths and brutalities.