Kashmir: The paradise lost

Nation, Lahore
March 28, 2005

The paradise lost
By Ghulam Farooq Lone

For the last five decades, the Kashmiris have been demand-ing their right of self-determination by peaceful means. But in return, the government of India let loose a reign of terror, whereby thousands of people have been killed, injured and tortured. The atrocities like torture, rape, confinement, arson, loot, custodial deaths, inhuman and degrading treatment, killings, etc., committed by Indian forces have not quelled the general uprising in favour of independence from the Indian occupation.
The children of the valley appear to be the most affected class by the ongoing violence. Children constitute about 38 percent of J&K’s population. Out of these six percent children are either orphans, destitute or neglected ones, whose basic needs go unfulfilled. The right to development of such children calls for meeting basic needs for protection, health care, food and education as well as love and affection, security, learning through exploration and safe environment. A child’s family is a primary institution for their development.
Due to increasing number of orphans in the state and alarming situation prevailing, one has to think seriously over the rights, protection and liberties of orphans. Children have been tortured and ill-treated by the Indian law enforcement agencies. Their parents were killed during the ongoing turmoil and they are the victims of circumstances.
The majority of orphans are children of civilians systematically slaughtered by the Indian army or caught in crossfire. UNICEF study (The impact of armed conflict on children) supports this. Accordingly in recent decade the proportion of war victims who are civilians has jumped dramatically from 5 to over 90 percent. The number of those children killed in crossfire is less than those whose parents have been killed by any of the agencies.
The state’s response to the orphan problems is a relief package under which the family of each killed would receive Rs 1 lakh as ex-gratia relief. More so, there are plans to provide monthly assistance to widows above 40 years of age.
Remarriage of the younger ones and educational schemes for the children but only those children are eligible for these relief packages who can produce non-involvement certificate from the state police absolving that their parents were not associated with any militancy and this rules out many orphans created by the security forces. But even for the rest, the children of innocent civilians, the relief is a mirage today.
No compensation has been paid out in the last one and a half years due to non-availability of funds and no new cases are registered. Even the backlogs, some as far back as 1992, have been kept pending. In the year 1999 all the Deputy Commissioners of the state were assigned the survey of militancy hit victims in their respective districts but till date nothing was done.
In a land where gun is the law and molestation and rape are common, a widow is more worried about seeing her orphan daughters married of safely, but being an orphan it carries its own social stigma in Kashmir. In Kashmir, every one knows that everything can happen at any time. The orphanage run by the NGOs and other agencies, has also been raided by the security forces and the orphans have not been spared. Many children are missing and have disappeared in the situation of conflict.
Thousands of orphans are being exploited, particularly the girl orphans, even by their relatives. The number of orphans is increasing day by day and in this behalf, some two years ago, a survey was conducted by an NGO J&K Yatteem Trust Srinagar, and it was found that during past 10 years, the number of orphans has gone to 15,000, district Kupwara (border district). Of around 100,000 children orphaned by the current crisis, most are forced to fend for themselves as child labours.
To cope with the alarming situation of orphans in the state, it needs peaceful atmosphere, bulk of funds and long term projects. Community based awareness should be launched and community based participation for social action is also the need of the time.
The neglected orphans demand immediate rehabilitation and help. Prior to the ongoing turmoil in Kashmir there was only one orphanage in the valley run by an NGO and only two homes run by the social welfare department. Now the Indian occupied Kashmir has more orphanages and Bal Ashrams, which caters to only 800 orphans out of 15,000 identified destitute orphans.
The facility is extremely inadequate. Indian government owes certain duties towards this class of society which has got certain rights, as the rights of the children have been recognised at the international level, such as Universal Children Day 1959, international year of the child 1979, and the UN conceptions on the rights of the child 1998.
All over India, it appears that there are 30,000 NGOs working for women and children, but unfortunately no one has come forward with special or certain programmes for these neglected orphans of Kashmir. The state as well as the Indian Central Government is not serious about the problem.
The government institution’s role along with the civil society is very important in protecting the child from deprivation of childhood experience. From the ongoing Kashmir conflict the children should be declared as peace zone chapter. Indian government should make mandatory on its security agencies to discriminate children, women and old ones from the adults while conducting their operations.
The Kashmiri child has also developed some psychological problems as they are deeply traumatised and frightened of the Indian security forces, who kill their parents before their eyes. Chronic violence and stress – can result in aggression. Since the children in Kashmir have not experienced peace and are exposed to chronic violence, they are more likely to be violent.


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