The sufferings endured by Kashmiri children in the disputed region of Kashmir are deeply disheartening and demand immediate attention. For decades, these innocent souls have been caught in the crossfire of conflict, bearing witness to violence, upheaval, and the constant threat to their physical and mental well-being.
June 4, marked the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, a day that was established by the United Nations in 1982 to acknowledge the pain and suffering of children affected by war and violence. While this day is meant to raise awareness and compassion for the plight of millions of children around the world, it also exposes the hypocrisy and indifference of the international community towards some of the most vulnerable and oppressed children in conflict zones such as Kashmir.
Kashmir, a disputed territory between India and Pakistan, has been under a brutal military occupation by India for over seven decades. The people of Kashmir have been denied their right to self-determination and subjected to gross human rights violations by the Indian forces. Among the worst victims of this occupation are the children of Kashmir, who have grown up in a climate of fear, trauma and insecurity.
According to various reports by human rights groups and media outlets, Kashmiri children have faced unimaginable horrors at the hands of the Indian troops, such as sexual abuse, torture, detention, beatings, killings and blinding by pellet guns. Since August 5, 2019, when India revoked Kashmir’s autonomy and imposed a lockdown and communication blackout on the region, the situation of Kashmiri children has worsened manifold. Thousands of children have been arrested and detained without any charges or due process. Many of them have been subjected to physical and psychological torture in custody. Some have been killed or injured by indiscriminate firing or shelling by the Indian forces.
The impact of this violence on the mental health and well-being of Kashmiri children is devastating. A 2012 study by Save the Children found that Kashmir valley has 215,000 orphans “out of which 37% have lost one or both parents to the prevailing conflict”. Many children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and other psychosomatic disorders due to witnessing or experiencing violence. The lockdown and communication blackout have also disrupted their education, health care and social support networks.
The international community has largely turned a blind eye to the sufferings of Kashmiri children. The UN resolutions on Kashmir’s right to self-determination have remained unimplemented for decades. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which India is a signatory to, has been violated with impunity by the Indian forces under the cover of draconian laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The UN Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict has failed to include India in its list of parties that commit grave violations against children.
On this International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, it is imperative that the world does not forget or ignore the plight of Kashmiri children. They deserve justice, dignity and freedom from oppression. They deserve a peaceful and prosperous future in accordance with their aspirations. They deserve to be treated as innocent children, not as enemies or collateral damage.
One of the most profound impacts on Kashmiri children is the regular exposure to armed conflict. Growing up amidst an atmosphere of unrest, they become accustomed to the sound of gunshots, bomb blasts, and the sight of armed forces patrolling their neighborhoods. The constant state of fear and insecurity shapes their perception of the world, robbing them of the carefree and joyful childhood that every child deserves.
The trauma experienced by these young Kashmiris leaves lasting scars on their psyche. Many suffer from anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), affecting their overall development and mental health. The lack of appropriate support systems, such as mental health services and counseling, only exacerbates their suffering, leaving them to cope with their trauma alone.
Access to education is another significant challenge faced by Kashmiri children. Frequent disruptions in the form of curfews, protests, and strikes prevent regular school attendance, robbing them of the opportunity to gain knowledge and build a brighter future. The closure of schools due to security concerns or political unrest further hampers their educational growth, perpetuating a cycle of disadvantage and limited opportunities.
Moreover, the loss of family members and loved ones due to the violence has become a harsh reality for many Kashmiri children. The grief and bereavement they experience at a young age inflict immeasurable pain, leaving them emotionally shattered and struggling to find solace. The constant cycle of loss and mourning shapes their worldview, making it difficult for them to envision a peaceful and stable future.
The sufferings of Kashmiri children also extend to their basic needs, such as access to clean water, nutritious food, and adequate healthcare. The prolonged conflict has strained the region’s infrastructure, leaving many children vulnerable to malnutrition, disease, and inadequate medical care. The lack of essential services and amenities further compounds their already dire situation.
It is imperative that the international community and relevant authorities prioritize the well-being of Kashmiri children. Efforts must be made to ensure their safety, provide access to quality education, and deliver mental health support. Additionally, steps should be taken to address the root causes of the conflict and promote a peaceful resolution, ultimately creating an environment where children can flourish and grow without fear.
Every child, regardless of their nationality or place of birth, deserves a childhood free from suffering and filled with hope. It is our collective responsibility to advocate for the rights and well-being of Kashmiri children, offering them a chance to heal, dream, and build a better tomorrow.