SIGNS OF THE TIMES
SITTING somewhat forlorn …as the rains go about lashing, hindering movement, upsetting structures, interrupting the flow of thoughts if not anything more substantial. Not that there’s been much happening these last several months. Dismal reports on any given survival sphere along the roti, kapda, makaan fronts. In fact, today even the freshly constructed roads and bridges and airport structures seemingly unable to take the strain of the rain fury compounded by the all-around deterioration. Collapsing, caving in …unable to take any further load in these decaying times!
Sitting back, recalling those bygone years, when we sang and swayed with rain drops falling about here and there. And in the background romantic baarish – barsaat songs held sway! Alas, all those good old memories washed away in the utter chaos overtaking everyday living. Thank yourself fortunate if you are still breathing. Not killed by the lethal combination of the corona and communal virus.
In fact, this brings me to focus on the young of the day, who haven’t really seen any of the happy carefree days. With educational institutions shut or semi-shut or partially open, what can be expected on the educational front! Nothing very much, with a majority of students unable to cope with online classes. No matter what bogus propaganda gets unleashed by the Pied Pipers of the day, the fact is that a high percentage of our students and their families cannot afford smartphones and the connected bandobast.
And as I have been writing, the political mafia has more than intruded into the educational institutions. In fact, in these recent years State machinery has gone right ahead. Right into the University campus. The so-called ‘happenings’ on the campus of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Allahabad University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Jadavpur University, also the Universities of Hyderabad and Delhi were ample pointers to the fact that the State machinery was used to silence the rebels. And through the summer and autumn of 2017 anarchy was witnessed on the campus of the Banaras Hindu University. Not very different from what took place at the Ramjas College (University of Delhi). Students were hounded for speaking out against the political mafia. Protesting voices were throttled. Sheer muscle power prevailed. In the spring of 2019 (February 2019), it got obvious that Right-Wing factions wanted to create ‘mischief’ on the campus of the Aligarh Muslim University.
And in 2020, hundreds of our students and scholars were hounded and harassed by the State machinery because they cried out against the CAA and also against the handling of the communal rioting and killings that shook northeast Delhi.
Today, in 2021, as hopelessness looms large and violence seems spreading out, I’m reminded of the young in the Kashmir Valley, who have been witnessing an extremely harsh scenario for years. In fact, harsher it gets, with killings compounding, getting in such an extreme mode that just today/22 September, came in the news that even a J&K cop, Ajay Dhar, got killed in the Kupwara district by his own colleague who mistook him to be a militant!
Killings and counter-killings! Can one imagine the aftermath of these ongoing killings! In fact, this generation of Kashmiris has grown up in absolutely trying circumstances. They have spent their childhood in the midst of curfews and crackdowns. They have never really experienced carefree adolescent days, as insecurities and apprehensions stood out. Disruptions and deaths have left a deep imprint on their young minds. To compound the tragedies, it is difficult to lodge a complaint against any member of the forces for fear of the severe aftermath and also because of the sheer futility of the entire exercise.
Over the years there have been surveys conducted in the Kashmir Valley by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an international medical humanitarian organization, which relayed the extent of the impact of the ongoing violence on the local population of the region.
And in earlier interviews given to me, Kashmir’s leading psychiatrist Dr Mushtaq Margoob, had been categorical in saying that the prevailing turbulence had been affecting a large section of the people. To quote him from the earlier given interviews to me, “A whole new generation of Kashmiris is growing up in this atmosphere of uncertainty, insecurity and stress. Undoubtedly, I am worried about them. This region has been witnessing traumatic situations for more than two decades now.” He had also detailed that news of deaths and killings and violence was affecting the young Kashmiris: ‘Today’s ‘trauma generation’ has hardly seen a minute of peace or tranquility in their lives. Under such trying circumstances, even an adult’s brain automatically shifts operations from highly evolved reality-based action processes to instinctual/emotion-based reactions of fight or flight course of action.”
And in the Spring of 2018, Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) released a report titled – Terrorized: Impact of Violence on the Children of Jammu and Kashmir.
The 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 no 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 militarized zone of the world, with the presence of 7,00,000 troopers, which exposes them to the risk of all grave six violations against children as laid out in United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child…The fifteen-year 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% of the civilian killings in last fifteen years, as 4,571 civilians have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir in the same period (2003-2017). In the same period, i.e., 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 8,537 killings. The numbers indicate that in the last fifteen years Jammu and Kashmir in an average year has witnessed at least 1,095 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 Indian armed forces and state police in Jammu and Kashmir, which alone accounts for nearly half, i.e., 44.02 percent, 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 8 children died due to injuries inflicted from pellet shot-guns fired by government forces. Twenty-seven children died due to drowning either caused due to the negligence of armed forces in the Wular lake tragedy or being chased by government forces during a protest, where victims find no way of escape from the armed forces and are forced to jump into water bodies, resulting in their death.”
Perhaps, needless for me to stress on the fact that in the last couple of years the human situation in the Kashmir Valley has been more than worrying.
( end of the column – 22 September 2021 )