On 19th August 1982, at its emergency special session on question of Palestine, the General Assembly, appalled at the great number of innocent Palestinian and Lebanese children victims of Israel’s acts of aggression, decided to commemorate June 4 of each year as the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression.
In 1997 The General Assembly adopted 51/77 Resolution on the Rights of the Child. It was a landmark development in efforts to improve the protection of children in conflict situations. This signaled the start of a new consensus among Member States, on the need for dedicated attention, advocacy and coordinated effort, by the international community, to address the vulnerabilities and violations faced by children in conflict-related situations.
In children specifically, those who are affected by war & state oppression like those in Palestine and Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K) have an increased prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and behavioral and psychosomatic complaints. According to UN, the statistics of child abuse include: more than two million children killed in conflict in the last two decades.
Children in IIOJK and Palestine are still living in the most militarized zone of the world which exposes them to risk of all six violations against children as laid out in UN Convention on Rights of the Child.
Besides, the violence against children in IIOJK is an all-time high. Since India abrogated Article 370, there have been increasing attempts by the Indian forces to torture Kashmiri children. Several human rights groups have accused India of using detention and torture against children, with impunity granted to security forces under the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
In another report, the UN called for the repeal of AFSPA, which has been dubbed as a draconian legislation by the human rights bodies. Indian Army has continuously violated numerous UN Resolutions along with Charter of Human Rights as well as the UN Istanbul Protocol 2004 – which is an international protocol for the Documentation of Torture, by its ‘population-centric’ military operations in IIOJK.
According to a detailed report by JKCCS, 2018, “Many young children have been killed, maimed and blinded by the fatal force used by the armed Indian troops.” Moreover, after removing Kashmir’s autonomy on August 5, 2020, at one point, 13,000 children were in detention on suspicions of being protesters and many of whom are still imprisoned.
A 2012 study by United Kingdom-based charity “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.” The report, led by the National Federation of Indian Women, detailed claims that boys some as young as 14 had been imprisoned for up to 45 days. It also claimed that families were paying up to 60,000 rupees for their children’s release of over 13,000 Children, including some as young as 7 and 8-year-olds. The use of one of the most dangerous weapons – pellet shotguns – first introduced in IIOJK in 2010, continued throughout 2019.
In November 2022, A report released by the Research Section of Kashmir Media Service on the occasion of World Children’s Day, said that children are the worst victims of India’s illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.
It revealed that 915 children are among the 96,154 people martyred by the troops since January 01, 1989, till date. The report said that the killing of civilians by the troops rendered 107,887 children orphaned in the territory during the period.
It added that hundreds of people including 19-month-old Hiba Jan, four-year-old Zuhra Majeed, eight-year-old Asif Rashid, eight-year-old Owais Ahmad, 10-year-old Asif Ahmad Sheikh and 13-year-old Mir Arafat have lost their eyesight totally and partially due to pellet bullets of Indian forces in the territory during the last 12 years.
The report said a large number of school boys are among thousands of Kashmiris arrested since the military and police siege when India scrapped the special status of IIOJK in August 2019. According to the report, Kashmir Caged, “Hundreds of boys and teens are being picked up from their beds in midnight raids… Parents feared meeting us and telling us about the “arrests” (abductions) of their boys. They are afraid of Public Security Act cases being filed. The other fear is that the boys may be “disappeared” i.e., killed in custody and dumped in mass graves.”
Moreover, the excessive use of force by the Indian armed forces, especially the firing of pellets and teargas shells resulted in at least 6 deaths in 2019. Experts claim that there is no way of adequately controlling the trajectory of these shotguns beyond a limited range, which makes them inherently indiscriminate and illegal. The inhuman use of pellet guns in the occupied valley has deprived the innocent Kashmiri children of their eyesight and the picturesque valley is facing shortage of essential commodities including ration and medicines due to prolonged lockdown where milk is not reaching to children.
“Indian forces call it a pellet gun, but it is a pump action shotgun,” says a spokesman from the Omega Research Foundation, a U.K. based charity that monitors military technologies. The only difference is the type of ammunition: a cartridge is up to 500 tiny lead pellets, which disperse in all directions when fired. They are commonly used by hunters. “The ammunition is not designed for crowd control,” he says. However, Indian security forces use them indiscriminately against innocent children and have left many children blind and scarred for the rest of their lives. Indian occupation forces want to blind the young generations.
JKCCS lays bare that there are no legal and normative processes or practices protecting children’s rights in IIOJK as hundreds of minors have been booked under Public Safety Act (PSA) with total disregard to the fact that they are children.
On the other side, António Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN referring to the barbarism perpetuated by the Israeli forces on the children of Palestine said: “If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza.” The scale of violation against the Palestinian children in the past 70 plus years of Israeli conflict has been massive.
The Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Kashmiri children in IIOJK have been living under Israeli and Indian occupation respectively and have been exposed to multiple forms of violence and deprivation.
Moreover, Palestinian children aged between 12 and 17 years, from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, continue to be detained and arrested by Israeli forces. Based on sworn affidavits by the children, there are reported forms of ill-treatment of children and due process violations when arrested and in detention – illustrative of a retributive justice system. These include night arrests, at times painful hand ties, and a lack of access to a lawyer or to alternatives to detention.
Moreover, young people were among the most affected groups during the latest Israeli operation on the Palestinian territory. Israeli air and artillery attacks killed 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, and left more than 1,900 people wounded. Nineteen Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem in 2023, compared with eight in the same period of 2022.
India and Israel’s brazen and systematic crimes against humanity infringe Article 12 of human right treaty of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – already ratified by India. Children in IIOJK and Palestine are suffering worst kind of persecution at the hands of Indian and Israeli forces respectively, and Indian / Israeli Non-Compliance with Convention on Rights of Child is a question mark on conscience of international community.
However, despite all the killings of children and the torture against them, it is appalling that UNSC has been unable to exercise its primary responsibility of maintaining international peace and security and it has failed to hold India and Israel accountable.
Humais Sheikh, has completed his Master’s from Quaid-I-Azam University Islamabad in Defense and Strategic studies. He is an independent defense analyst and Ex. Vice president of Defense and Strategic Studies student’s society.