Kashmir’s children

THE list of atrocities carried out by Indian forces in India-held Kashmir seems to be getting longer, while it appears that New Delhi’s military machine has thrown all ethics to the wind. In a recent gun battle between Indian paramilitary forces and Kashmiri fighters in Sopore, security men reportedly dragged a civilian, Bashir Ahmed Khan, out of his vehicle and shot him in front of his three-year-old grandson. Extremely disturbing images of the toddler sitting on his murdered grandfather’s chest have been widely shared and illustrate the savagery India is willing to resort to, to keep its grip on the occupied region. Unfortunately, it seems that Kashmiri children are now used to seeing the bodies of their fathers, brothers and other relatives as India seeks to subdue the Kashmiri struggle for freedom and dignity through colonial-era violence. Though local police say reports of this atrocity are ‘false’, hundreds took to the streets for Bashir Ahmed’s funeral, demanding justice and freedom.

If such a reprehensible act had taken place in any other location, there would be a firestorm in the international media — and rightly so — over exposing a child to brutal violence perpetrated by representatives of the state. But when it comes to IHK, as well as Palestine, it seems the world plays by different rules. This blatant hypocrisy must end. Those responsible for this murder, and the brutalisation of a minor, must be brought to justice. But can justice be expected from a dispensation that considers violence against civilians in occupied Kashmir legitimate? According to rights groups, over 30 civilians have been killed in Indian military operations in IHK since January.

Even the UN secretary general has taken notice of India’s violence against children in the region. In a report released last month, António Guterres asked India to do more to protect children from violence in the disputed region, while adding that minors had been detained by Indian security forces in IHK. The fact is that since those that call the shots in New Delhi can do little to dampen the Kashmiris’ desire for freedom, they tend to target the most vulnerable to vent their frustration. Much more needs to be done by the international community to let India know that violence against civilians — specifically violence against children — will not be tolerated. Indeed, it is more than ironic that a country that proudly flaunts its ‘democratic’ credentials does not flinch when exposing Kashmir’s children to violence.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 20