The Platform

Costas Anton Dumitrescu

The long-running conflict in Kashmir has robbed the region’s children of a future.

The suffering endured by Kashmiri children in the disputed region of Kashmir is deeply disheartening and demands immediate attention. These innocent souls have been caught in the crossfire of conflict, witnessing violence and upheaval that pose a constant threat to their well-being.

On June 4, the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, established by the United Nations in 1982, aims to raise awareness of the pain and suffering experienced by children affected by war and violence. However, this day also highlights the hypocrisy and indifference of the international community towards vulnerable and oppressed children in conflict zones like Kashmir.

Kashmir, a disputed territory between India and Pakistan, has been under brutal military occupation by India for several decades. The people of Kashmir have been denied their right to self-determination and subjected to gross human rights violations. Among the worst affected by this occupation are the children, growing up in fear, trauma, and insecurity.

Reports from human rights groups and media outlets reveal unimaginable horrors faced by Kashmiri children at the hands of Indian troops, including sexual abuse, torture, detention, beatings, killings, and being blinded by pellet guns. Since 2019, when India revoked Kashmir’s autonomy and imposed a lockdown and communication blackout, the situation for Kashmiri children has worsened significantly.

The violence inflicted upon Kashmiri children has devastating consequences on their mental health and well-being. Many suffer from PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other issues due to their exposure to violence. The lockdown and communication blackout has further disrupted their education, healthcare, and social support networks.

The international community has largely turned a blind eye to the suffering of Kashmiri children. UN resolutions on Kashmir’s right to self-determination remain unimplemented, while the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is violated with impunity by Indian forces. The UN Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict fails to hold India accountable for grave human rights violations.

On this International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, it is imperative that we do not forget or ignore the plight of Kashmiri children. They deserve justice, dignity, and freedom from oppression. The world must recognize their right to a peaceful and prosperous future in line with their aspirations. They deserve to be treated as innocent children, not as enemies or collateral damage.

Growing up amidst armed conflict, Kashmiri children are constantly exposed to gunshots, bomb blasts, and armed forces patrolling their neighborhoods. The state of fear and insecurity they live in robs them of the carefree and joyful childhood they deserve.

The trauma experienced by young Kashmiris leaves lasting scars on their psyche. The lack of appropriate support systems exacerbates their suffering, leaving them to cope with their trauma alone.

Access to education is a significant challenge for Kashmiri children. Frequent disruptions like curfews, protests, and strikes prevent regular school attendance, limiting their opportunity to gain knowledge and build a brighter future. School closures due to security concerns further hamper their educational growth and their opportunities.

The loss of family members due to violence is a harsh reality for many Kashmiri children. Grief and bereavement experienced at a young age inflict immeasurable pain, leaving them emotionally shattered and struggling to find solace. The cycle of loss and mourning shapes their worldview, making it difficult for them to envision a peaceful future.

Kashmiri children also suffer in terms of basic needs such as access to clean water, nutritious food, and adequate healthcare. The prolonged conflict strains the region’s infrastructure, leaving many vulnerable to malnutrition, disease, and inadequate medical care. The lack of essential services compounds their dire situation.

The international community and relevant authorities must prioritize the well-being of Kashmiri children. Efforts should focus on ensuring their safety, providing access to quality education, and delivering mental health support. Addressing the root causes of the conflict and promoting a peaceful resolution is crucial to creating an environment where children can flourish without fear.

Every child, regardless of nationality or place of birth, deserves a childhood free from suffering and filled with hope. It is our collective responsibility to advocate for the rights and well-being of Kashmiri children, offering them a chance to heal, dream, and build a better tomorrow.

Awais Abbasi is an independent researcher and holds a graduate degree in Political Science from the University of Bristol. He is currently​ serving as visiting fellow at the University of South Asia.