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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 44 New Delhi October 19, 2019

Kashmir Caged: Violence on Children, Media Functioning

Sunday 20 October 2019, by Humra Quraishi

MUSINGS

From this October 2, let us try and speak the truth and also try and hear only the truth. After all, Mahatma Gandhi’s biggest weapon was his strength to speak only and only the truth. Armed with that, he disarmed even heavily-armed armies.

Alas, today’s rulers are lacing their speeches with distractions or else with bogus assurances. Where is that truth that one’s craving to hear? Where is that mention of the existing ground- realities? Where is that development and that ‘all’s okay’ scenario? Where’s that equal treatment meted out to citizens of this land? Where’s the atmosphere for that basic survival?

Hollow assurances of all’s going okay even when structures, human and otherwise, are getting simply washed away in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh...Horrifying shots of the flood fury! How come with all the development we boast of, we are unable to harness these waters? Or, is it that because of no-development, these waters have nowhere to go, except right into homes, schools, hospitals, offices, prisons! Never mind, if all’s getting washed away. Our rulers are continuing to sing the ‘all’s okay’ lullaby. Putting to sleep the thick—skinned.

And for the hundreds and thousands of those of us who are made to sit caged in the Kashmir Valley, the rulers continue to sing that all’s okay lullaby! This, when all’s getting caged for those caged.

Tragedies taking place out there, yet no public outcry in that collective way. There could be only two possible reasons for this: either the Right-wing propaganda is working overtime along a well—executed strategy or else we have become so very completely conned or blinded. (nah, not by pellet guns but by words and speeches!) that we can’t even comprehend the very basics.

What will happen if you treat citizens as suspects, not even allow them to be heard or listened to! In this caged condition, the hapless citizens of the Valley cannot be heard. They cannot tell us details of the dead and dying. Even for those who are trying to report from there, the going is getting tough and tougher...

I am putting together these two rather significant reports, brought into focus in 2018. Read those facts and figures and you’d sit back in a sorrowful shocked state—that is, if your sensitivity levels are not totally demolished. Also, figure out for yourself that if these were the exact facts and figures in an un-caged condition, then what would or could be the present-day situation of the Kashmiris in the prevailing, ongoing conditions!

In 2018, Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) released a report titled ‘Terrorised: Impact of Violence on the Children of Jammu and Kashmir’. This report is the assessment of the violence against children in Jammu and Kashmir in the last fifteen years (2003 to 2017). It also focuses on the grim reality that there are nil or near-nil legal and normative processes or practices protecting children’s rights in Jammu and Kashmir, as minors have been booked under the repressive Public Safety Act (PSA). To quote from this report—“Children in Jammu and Kashmir are living in the most militarised zone of the world, with the presence of 7,00,000 troopers, which exposes them to the risk of all grave violations against children as laid out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child...The period from 2003 to 2017, witnessed not less than 318 killings of children (in the age-group of 1 to 17) in various incidents of violence in Jammu and Kashmir. The killing of 318 children constitutes 6.95 per cent of the civilian killings in the last fifteen years, as 4571 civilians have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir in the same period (2003— 2017). In the same period, that is, from 2003 to 2017, at least 16,436 killings were recorded in Jammu and Kashmir, and the majority of them included alleged militants numbering at least 8537 killings. The numbers indicate that in the last fifteen years Jammu and Kashmir in an average year has witnessed at least 1095 killings, which belies the government’s claims of ‘return to normalcy’...The pattern of killings of children in the fifteen-year period suggests that children were direct targets of state violence, as part of its stated offensive to curb uprising and militancy. At least 144 children were killed by the Indian armed forces and State Police in Jammu and Kashmir, which alone accounts for nearly half, that is, 44.02 per cent, of the total children killed. Most of the children, at least 110 of them, killed in state violence were shot dead in different incidents of violence, and not less than eight children died due to injuries inflicted from pellet shot-guns fired by the government forces. Twentyseven children died due to drowning either caused due to the negligence of armed forces in the Wular lake tragedy or being chased by the government forces during a protest, where the victims find no way of escape from the armed forces and are forced to jump into water bodies, resulting in their death.”

In 2018, I heard the Head of the Journalism Department of the Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST,—situated on the outskirts of Srinagar, in Awantipora)), Dr Ruheela Hassan, speak at a seminar held at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (Centre for Media Studies), focusing on the difficulties faced by the journalists in the Valley. To quote her from the report—“The struggle of media in Kashmir throughout its evolution is witness that the media in Kashmir has never enjoyed real freedom. Be it the Dogra Rule in 1924, nationalist government (1947-1953), Sheikh Abdullah (1948-1953), Bakshi Ghulam Mohamad (1953-1963), Ghulam Mohamad Sadiq (1964-1971), National Conference (1975-1982/1986-1990), media in Kashmir has never breathed in free air. At one time, the State was resistant to granting permission and when the permission was granted their freedom was curbed, strict laws and regulations like Jammu and Kashmir Press and Publication Act of 1932 were introduced and implemented to ban publications, seize printing presses, or demand heavy securities from the journalists...After India gained indepen-dence, it guaranteed freedom of speech and expression to all its citizens including the citizens of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, but nothing changed for the press. Older laws were amended and new laws were implemented to muzzle the press. ...The inordinate circumstances in Kashmir from 1990s further worsened the scenario. Not only the freedom of expression was endangered, but there were now increased threats to the life of journalists. Their freedom of movement and right to assess information was also snatched. Several journalists lost their lives and many were put behind bars. Journalists also fought several battles with the state. Some struggles they won (withdrawing of the Press Bill by the state) and some they lost.”

Dr Ruheela Hassan had detailed, “A survey has revealed that 77 per cent of the Valley journalists said that they have faced restrictions of one form or other while performing their professional duties. Twentyone per cent of the Valley journalists have been booked or summoned by the State or national authorities (mostly booked under draconian laws like OSA, PSA, security of the State)

• 20 journalists killed.

• Several kidnapped and illegally detained.

• More than 25 injured.

• 80 per cent of Valley journalists believe that no freedom of expression is enjoyed by them as guaranteed.”

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