DR. BASHIR A. DABLA
After visiting Kashmir in late 2009 and meeting experts, professionals and organizations, to know and to observe the life conditions of children, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights criticized the state government for not fulfilling the needs of children and not protecting their basic rights. It recommended systematic efforts to protect all child rights, especially of prime victims of violence, through the establishment of “State Commission for Protection of Child Rights” under the grand “Child Policy of the State”. It also asked for effective implementation of Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and Integrated Child Welfare Scheme, for which 90 percent funds must be claimed from the Centre.
The Commission was also critical of the absence of “Juvenile Justice System” in the state. Though there is a law – Juvenile Justice Act of 1997 – it has not been enforced so far. There is no “Juvenile Court” or “Juvenile Home” in the state. All juvenile delinquents are produced in regular courts, kept in prisons with adults, including criminals, thus negating the very sense of ‘juvenile justice’. In this way, many basic and human rights of children are violated and denied, the commission asserted.
The violation and denial of human rights of children in Kashmir, which the Commission has not dealt in detail, deserves first priority. Ideally, the comprehensive framework of child right can be borrowed from “Convention of the Rights of Child”, adopted by the UN and signed by India too. While it provides a comprehensive picture of child rights, it specifically emphasizes the states to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence.
Children in Kashmir face two sets of problems due to two varying problems. First, Kashmiri children face problems in normal situation like in other societies, such as malnutrition, fatal diseases, illiteracy, child labour, child prostitution, trafficking, crime, deviance, delinquency, child abuse and so on.
But, the second set of problems are grave and dangerous and are directly or indirectly related to militancy and militarization in Kashmir. The conflict situation for 20 long years has played havoc with the past and endangered the future of children. They have suffered in all fields, especially education, health, economy, culture, family life and so on.
Our study, ‘Social Impact of Militancy’, revealed that six prominent groups of children have emerged in Kashmir who can be called ‘prime victims of violence’. (i) Orphaned children [estimated number 97,800]; (ii) Disabled children [2,000 – 3,000]; (iii) Mentally deranged and Physically diseased children [about 3,000]; (iv) Children of compromised-surrendered militants [6,000 – 10,000]; (v) Children of imprisoned-LOC youth [4,500 – 5,000]; (vi) Child victims of violence [in thousands]
The state government has proved apathetic to the problems of these children who have suffered due to continued conflict. Their increasing number has corrupted and degenerated social life through delinquency, crime, drug addiction, moral waywardness, educational drop-out, violent attitudes and behaviour, the government does not recognize this pathological social reality.
The government immediately needs to make an objective-scientific understanding and assessment of issues and problems of children who are ‘prime victims of violence’. It also needs to formulate policy, which will cover other than normal problems of children besides implementation of specific programmes for overall wellbeing and comprehensive rehabilitation of militancy-effected children.