Although there is no let-up in repression by brute Indian forces in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK), yet the resilience, resoluteness and decisiveness shown by the people of Kashmir, especially children and youth, is unprecedented. The Kashmiri Muslim children – boys and girls – are living in a state of fear and scare, but hats off to their resolve and the will to survive, they have demonstrated determination of matchless example that even the most tyrannical reign of Hindutva ideology-led Modi government has failed to break them down.
Growing up in a conflict zone is the worst childhood given to a child. Such is the dilemma of the children born and raised in IIOJK. The story of suffering and the ordeal they experience through life taint their innocence, and expose them to the horrors of reality. Yet, they hold firmly the legacy of their forefathers who have taught them never to give up.
The picturesque Kashmir Valley has once been laden with beautiful lush mountains. The iconic beauty of nature has been dubbed as “Paradise on Earth”. Now, for the last many decades, this paradise has been turned into a hell for the people of Kashmir, particularly the children and youth, mostly students. The innocent angels, boys and girls, are virtually thrown into a living hell, and put through atrocities unimagined.
The most endorsed human rights treaty in history is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which is an international agreement that was adopted in 1989. The UNCRC outlines 41 articles that are meant to protect the basic human rights of children. These articles are aimed at ensuring that all the children of the world have access to basic human rights including the right to life and freedom, education and health, safety and security, access to information, right to identity and right to culture, non-discrimination, right to protection from harm, etc.
The same world, international community, and diplomatic corps in the capitals across the globe bear witness that the children and youth – boys and girls – in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir, have been denied and are being denied the basic human rights, which have been agreed upon under the UN Convention. Although, saner elements do not miss raising voice for the oppressed people of IIOJK, especially children and students, yet there is much to do by the influential capitals that can exert diplomatic, political as well as moral pressure on New Delhi to come to the terms of UNCRC parameters, and address the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council’s resolutions.
Obviously, the first exposure of a child is his or her parents and siblings; he or she receives love and affection from mother, father and near relatives. But in IIOJK these children have to get awakened by the sounds of gunshots. They witness the sanctity of their homes vandalised, doors broken up, elders – brothers and sisters – dragged out, beaten up and taken away. They see their mothers and sisters get humiliated by Indian security men. Sometimes children get separated from their parents. And we remember the Kashmiri toddler going out with his grandfather. Indian security men shot his grandfather dead, and made the grandson sit on his blood stained body. They took photos of the boy sitting on the chest of the dead, and made videos while laughing and making fun. That photo will always remind us of the most heinous incident, and may continue to haunt the already traumatized soul of that child. But the enemy doesn’t know that winning is hidden in losing; laughing of children at the pointed guns of brutes breeds the biggest revenge.
The right to education is one of the primary rights but lockdowns, long curfews and subjective roadside humiliations or tortures are denying the Kashmiri children their basic right to education. Schools remain closed for days rather months. Many schools have been closed down due to financial constraints because of the frequent lockdowns. Children can’t go to school freely. They are humiliated, and sometimes made to bring cigarettes or other items for security personnel. Often, they are dragged from homes, beaten up in open and punished for being Muslim Kashmiri children. Young girls are harassed and abused either by Indian security forces or RSS goons.
Parents fear sending their kids alone to schools as they might get assaulted or abducted by brute forces. It gets hard for students to study at school and sit in exams. This is not only spoiling their education, but also shattering their dreams. The dreams of pursuing a career or profession are vandalized by the oppressive regime. Kashmiri children seldom have friends; they have to stay indoors often. The very simple joy of playing with friends, going to a playground or a park is shadowed by the fear of hostile violence which the security forces unleash every now and then.
Of late, the Indians have been using pellet guns, which have brutally made the children of IIOJK traumatized. Their eyes have gone blind and faces scarred. Thousands have been critically injured, many are dead or disabled. Many are targeted at home; many become victims of stray bullets. Amnesty International compiled a 109-page book displaying the ill-fated victims of pellet guns to draw world’s attention to India’s state terrorism. Asrar Ahmed, an avid Kashmiri student and zealous cricketer, was hit while returning home when the brute forces opened fire at a crowd. Hiba Jan, an 18-month old baby, was hit when she was playing at home. She lost one of her eyes.
After the revocation of Article 370 by Modi government in 2019, the entire valley has turned into a massive open air prison with frequent lockdowns in place, and roads barricaded with no permission of entering or exiting the occupied valley. In order to apprehend and avoid any uprising and protest against this unconstitutional action by Indian government, massive raids and arrests are still being carried out. Over 15,000 children and young boys or girls have been abducted from their homes. The young children and boys have been arrested and taken to unknown locations where they are subjected to mental and physical torture.
The communication lines and internet are severed in IIOJK. Some of the services are sometime partially restored in order to hoodwink the world. The right to internet and information, a basic human right as per UNCRC, is also denied to Kashmiri children. In this digital age, connecting to the outside world, learning the latest information, and showing their plight at the hands of Indian troops or RSS goons to the rest of the world is being blocked.
A majority of Kashmiris faces shortage of grocery supplies, too. This has resulted in the children’s malnutrition. Provision of clean drinking water, food and adequate health services is minimal. As these disorders go untreated, children suffer from major health issues.
In nutshell, childhood in IIOJK is hooked with curfews and dreams laced with tear gas. The right to education is choked by checkpoints, the laughter of kids muffled by barbed wires. The textbook lessons are stained with losses, while the innocence of children bleeds on streets. Lullabies are replaced by gunshots, and family portraits are framed by fear. Kashmiri children’s right to breathe and right to freedom is stolen by silence where the dawn of every day hides a threat.
Amidst such a circumstance, in the middle of fearful environment, a bright ray of hope emerges. The shining faces of Kashmiri kids wear solemn smiles as if they are looking into the eyes of the enemy, giving them a loud and clear message that they and their will shall never die down, and the dawn of freedom shall herald very soon.