Impact of Kashmir Conflict on Children
Dr. Altaf Ahmad Dar
Children are considered the wealth of a nation and their progress and development are the priority of every nation. But, unfortunately, in several countries, their progress and development have been halted by armed conflicts. They have become direct victims of conflict, firing and mine blasts. Children suffer the most in armed conflicts. According to reports by United Nations, some 20 million people have been killed in over 150 armed conflicts in developing countries since the Second World War, the majority being the children and women (Boyden et al, 2002). UN Security Council resolution on Children and Armed Conflict states that armed conflict creates a harmful and widespread impact on children and has also long-term consequences for durable peace, security and development (UN Security Council Resolution, 2001). In present ethno-political conflicts, children are being used as political actors and are victimized on a massive scale by attacks, landmines, displacement and sexual violence (Wessells, 1998).
According to the UN General Assembly study conducted by Ms Graca Machel, out of the world’s 27.4 million refugees and 30 million displaced people, nearly half are children (Machel, 1996). Children in conflict areas develop many psycho-social problems like stress, trauma, nightmares, depression and mental problems due to the killing of parents, loss of home and other violent incidents (Wessells, 1998).
In Kashmir, it was children who suffered the most by armed conflict as in other parts of the world. It has disturbed their innocent minds as they have witnessed the conflict when they were in their childhood period. They have gone through trauma, depression, and other psycho-social problems. They have seen their fathers, brothers, mothers and sisters being killed during firing exchanges between government forces and militants. A large number of children became orphans as either their father or mother got killed. According to a study done by Save the Children, there are 2,14,000 orphan children in Kashmir and 37 per cent of them are due to Kashmir conflict. These orphan children are going through a difficult phase. They suffer from many psycho-social problems face economic problems. Many orphan children can’t continue their education and some of them study in orphanages. These orphanages like Yateem Khana and Yateem Trust run by socio-religious organisations provide them with free education, boarding and lodging and take care of their every need.
Armed conflict has disturbed the education system as well due to frequent hartals, curfews, killings and crackdowns which often lead to the closure of schools. Kashmiri school children get less schooling facilities as compared to other states of India which has become responsible for their less exposure to extra-curricular activities. Children born after 1990 have spent less time in schools and more in homes. Kashmir conflict has also kept schools in a very poor condition which has caused a negative impact on the mental development of children.
A very large number of schools have been occupied by security forces as their base camps for militant operation activities. In the most number of cases, security forces have constructed their base camps nearer to schools which has a negative impact on the minds of the students. These kinds of situations gave birth to mental problems like fear, trauma, depression etc. to school-going children. These base camps can become a threat to the security of the students any time in future if any untoward incident happens between security forces and militants. If the Government of India is sincere about the safety and security of Kashmiri children they need to shift these military camps to safer locations.
Use of pellet guns has proven lethal as many children lost their vision completely or partially as they became victim to pellet firing from government forces. Pellet victim children face many economic hardships and have to go through mental trauma. Most of them can’t continue their education either due to poverty or unavailability of well-equipped blind schools in Kashmir. In 2016, the worst example of the pellet victims is 10th class student Insha Jan from Shopian, and on 25th Nov. 2018, 18-month old baby girl Haba Jan, who may lose completely the vision of her one eye as feared by doctors. Amnesty International has urged India to stop the use of pellet guns in line with Human Rights Standards on the use of forces but, unfortunately, government forces are still continuing with its use to deal with protesters which, at times, includes school-going children. The immediate need is to ban the pellet guns so that no more children become victim to pellet firing.
The author has done Doctorate on Peace Education from Central University of Pondicherry. He can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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