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Horrific tales of these abused kids reveal how much Kashmir is neglecting

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Feb 8: Shazia (not her real name), a dark-haired, 8 year-old, sits quietly in a wooden chair. She, at first, seems like any girl her age, but a closer look reveals the fear in her eyes.
Her pale face gives way to a coy smile, as the psychologist asks her name, which she lisps with a slight shudder in her voice.
Dr Ulfat Jan , her Counsellor and Assistant Professor in the department of Psychology at Amar Singh College here, tries to access her mind.
Shazia, is asked to colour drawings on a sketch book placed before her. Her hand trembles, as she holds a black crayon between her slender fingers.
Shazia has suffered repeated sexual abuse from her father, following her mother’s death two years after she was born.
Her two elder sisters have fled their home after they, too, were subjected to continuous sexual and physical abuse by their father.
“I tried to find out the reason why her elder sisters left her alone knowing she too might fall prey to the abuse. The findings disturbed me even more,” said Dr Ulfat
Her sisters, as per the counsellor, had disclosed the tale of their abuse to their paternal aunt, who took a little cognisance and advised them to be quiet about their ill fate.
No relief in sight, they sought shelter at their relative’s place.
“Our Aunt was aware of the abuse all the while. Instead of taking any action against her brother, she put the blame on us. She taunted us continuously that we will bring disrepute to the family. We had no option but to flee our home,” said one of the sisters.
Shazia has stopped going to school. Sometimes, she wakes up screaming in the night and bursts into loud sobs. The sight of elderly men sends chills down her spine.
“She is too young to understand the torture she has endured. The emotional and psychological trauma inflicted on her can last lifelong” said Dr Ulfat.
Maryam (name changed), 15, loved to talk and laugh with her friends.
Of late, she has, however, undergone a sudden transformation: she hardly interacts with anyone, confines to her room, and has stopped going for tuitions to a coaching centre.
Her cousin noticed the change, and decided to investigate. What she found was shocking.
“I tried to initiate a conversation with her, but to no avail. After a week she came up to me with tearful eyes, and revealed how her teacher tried to assault her,” the cousin said.
The teacher at her coaching centre had made frequent attempts to touch her private parts, made obscene gestures while teaching, and often grinned slyly at her.
For a few days, she skipped classes and preferred to stay home. On parental insistence, she resumed her classes, and the teacher continued to harass her.
“On inquiring further, I found that other girl students too faced harassment from the same person. But nobody complained, fearing the wrath of the teacher,” Maryam’s cousin said.
Sexual abuse, however, is not restricted to girls alone; a harrowing testimony to the abuse faced by the boys comes from a 24-year-old science student, Umar Khan (name changed).
He was sodomised at the age of 15.
“My abuser was a policeman. I remember I was walking to home after school. He stopped me midway and threatened to harm me if I didn’t go with him. He took me to a secluded spot and sodomised me,” he said.
Umar still gets panic attacks every time he spots a police vehicle. Flashbacks from the traumatic incident keep haunting him.
“That time, my brain was unable to register the pain I had gone through. I had no vocabulary to understand it,” lamented Umar.
The epidemic of child sexual abuse continues to haunt the lives of many young boys and girls in Jammu and Kashmir.
Getting them to report such incidents is a challenge, as the public and private discourse on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is still a strong taboo in the society.
Most children, therefore, have no means to vent their trauma. Incidents of abuse reported, therefore, are quite disproportionate to the extent of the epidemic.
National Crime Records Bureau NCRB (2016), Jammu and Kashmir reports only 222 cases of sexual abuse against juveniles in 2016.
“Five children were murdered, 25 sexually assaulted, 167 kidnapped, and five unnatural cases were reported in the state,” reveals the data.
Faith healers, too, are among the culprits in Kashmir. From acquitted Gulzar Peer to under-trial Aijaz Sheikh, the cases of faith-healers abusing the children have come to fore.
Habeel Iqbal, Lawyer in the Shopian District and Sessions Court, concurs that the number of CSA cases in the valley is much higher.
“Official data is just the tip of an ice-berg,” he said. “The need of the hour is the implementation of ‘POSCO Act’ in the valley.”
“Many laws of the centre are extended here, but unfortunately, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence Act (POSCO) is not extended to the state,” he said.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, aimed to protect children from sexual abuse, including harassment, penetrative or non-penetrative and pornographic depiction.
The Act mandates stringent punishment for child abusers ranging from simple to rigorous imprisonment for varying periods and a fine.
The Act also mandated setting up of special courts, where such cases can be tried expeditiously.
Its unavailability in Kashmir ensures that even the consolation of a token is not available. In its absence, timely identification and prevention is the only recourse available.
A strong network of trained counsellors is the first step towards it.
“We need trained counsellors in every school who can sensitise children about good touch, bad touch and in turn help them identify the signs of abuse,” said, Dr Ulfat
She believes that the psychological first aid for CSA victims is to give them a “sense of protection” and “sense of security”.
“We can’t interact and counsel a child the way we do with adults. It is practically impossible for him to speak up against the adult offender given his lack of vocabulary,” said Ulfat.
Dr Wakar Amin, a social worker and Assistant Professor at MSW Department of Kashmir University, said that it was important for parents to create an environment for disclosure and keep a lookout on the behavioural pattern of their children.
“Such cases don’t come forward primarily because of the age of the child and the kind of barrier we as parents have developed with our kids,” he said.
“In many cases parents don’t report the abuse to the police fearing it may tarnish their reputation.”
He admitted that they don’t have enough counsellors and social workers to deal with CSA victims.
“We have many so-called child right activists but they only talk about the issues which they feel are comfortable with,” he said.


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3 militants killed in Shopian encounter

Slain includes IPS officer’s brother; civilians, forces personnel among injured

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Srinagar, Jan 22: Three militants, including the brother of an IPS officer, were killed and an army soldier wounded in a gunfight in Shopian district of south Kashmir on Tuesday.

Reports said that the gunfight broke out Tuesday morning after a joint party of the army and the state police launched a cordon-and-search-operation in Shirmal village following inputs about the presence of militants.

They said the militants opened fire on the forces after the latter fired several shots towards their hideout located in an orchard in the village.

 

There was a momentary lull before the firefight resumed, leading to the killing of three militants, news agency Global News Service reported.

One army soldier has also sustained injuries during the course of the gunfight, it reported while quoting unnamed sources.

Quoting official sources, news agency GNS said the slain militants included Shamsul Haq Mengnoo son of Mohammad Rafiq Mengnoo, a resident of Draggud village of Shopian district.

Shamsul Haq was pursuing Bachelors of Unani Medicine and Surgery (BUMS) at government college Zakura when he joined militancy. His elder brother Inamul Haq is 2012 IPS batch officer who is posted in North East.

The identity of the two other militants was being ascertained, police said.

Reports, however, identified the two other slain as Amir Ahmad Bhat (21) son of Late Abdul Aziz Bhat of Chadipora, Shopian and Shuaib Ahmad Shah (19) son of Ghulam Rasool Shah of Zahapora, Shopian.

The slain, as per reports, were affiliated with Hizbul Mujahideen militant outfit and were involved in a number of attacks in the southern district.
After conducting all necessary formalities, the bodies of the trio were later in the evening handed over to their families for last rites, reports said.

They added that at least seven persons were injured in clashes near the site of the encounter at Heff Shirmal as government forces resorted to tear gas shelling and pellet firing.

Later in the day, a police spokesperson said a cordon and search operation was launched jointly by police and other forces in Shirmal area of

Zainapora in Shopian area after credible inputs about the presence of militants.“As the searches were going on, the search party was fired upon by the militants. The fire was retaliated leading to a gunfight. In the ensuing encounter, three militants were killed and the bodies were recovered from the site of encounter. Their identities and affiliations are being ascertained,” the spokesperson said.

He added that it was a difficult operation due to the terrain and there were clashes in the area which was handled by the government forces.

“Only five cases of injuries were reported and three of them were discharged after preliminary medical attention. Separately six security forces personnel injured during the clashes have been discharged after medical attention,” the spokesperson said.

Police, he said, has registered a case and initiated investigation in the matter. Incriminating materials including arms and ammunition were recovered from the site of encounter.

 

Shamsul met ‘sad end’ despite his IPS brother’s efforts: Ex-DGP

Srinagar, Jan 22: Former Jammu and Kashmir Police chief Shesh Paul Vaid on Tuesday said that Hizb militant Shamsul Haq met a “sad end” despite efforts by his IPS officer brother to bring him back.
Taking to Twitter soon after the news of his killing in Shopian gunfight started doing the rounds, Vaid, who was the director general of police in J&K when Haq turned to militancy, said: “I remember the efforts that were made by his (Haq’s) brother /other family members and J&K Police to bring him back to mainstream but he met a sad end today.”
Haq, brother of IPS officer Inam ul Haq, was killed along with his two associates in a gunfight in Shirmal village of Shopian.

Militants killed in Budgam affiliated with Al Badr: Police

Srinagar, Jan 22: Jammu and Kashmir Police on Tuesday said the three militants slain in a gunfight with the government forces in central Kashmir’s Budgam district on Tuesday were affiliated with Al Badr militant outfit.
In a statement, a police spokesman said that the slain militants were identified as Sabzar Ahmad son of Ali Mohammad Mir resident of Lassipora Pulwama, Syed Rabani son of Mohammad Hussain resident of Nazneenpora Shopian and Towseef Ahmad Itoo son of Abdul Aziz resident of Nowpora Payeen Pulwama.
The slain militants, he said, were affiliated with proscribed outfit Al-Badar and were wanted by the law.
“Incriminating material including arms and ammunition were recovered from the site of encounter. All these materials have been taken in the case records for the purpose of investigation,” he said.
Bodies of the slain militants were handed over to their families after completion of medico-legal formalities, he added.
The three militants were killed after a daylong gunfight in Hapatnar forests on Tuesday.

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4 photojournalists injured in pellet firing: Reporters without Borders, KEG condemn incident

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Srinagar, Jan 22: Four photojournalists were hit by pellets while covering the Tuesday’s gun battle in Shopian district.

The injured included Hindustan Times photojournalist Waseem Andrabi, Rising Kashmir‘s Nisar ul Haq, and Junaid Gulzar and Mir Burhan, both working with local publications.

Andrabi had six pellet wounds in his face and neck, narrowly missing his eyes.

 

Reports said the photojournalists were walking towards the encounter site in Shopian when they came across a blockade put up by the protesting youth.

Government forces and locals were engaged in violent clashes around the same area where the journalists were present.

“At some distance, the police and CRPF parties were holding their position as stone pelting had begun. I raised my camera to show that we were photojournalists and out of nowhere, we were showered with pellets,” Andrabi told The Wire.

Andrabi was hit with six pellets, including on his lips, forehead and neck.

The incident prompted statements of condemnation from all major journalist bodies in Kashmir.

Kashmir Press Photographers Association (KPPA) termed the incident as a brutal, murderous assault on photojournalists by security forces.

“KPPA believes that the oft-repeated assault on the photojournalists is uncalled for and employing such tactics by the government forces won’t deter us from carrying out our professional duties. The association urges the governor Satya Pal Malik and director general of police Dilbag Singh to personally look into the matter and order a magisterial enquiry into the incident followed by strict action against the erring cops,” the association said

The Kashmir Press Club said “It is not the first time such an incident has happened. Most unfortunate that journalists are made a targeted when they are only performing their duties. It is appalling that pellets were fired at them”.

Kashmir Video Journalist Association (KVJA) and Kashmir National Television Journalist Association also condemned the attack on journalists in Shopian and asked state’s governor and DGP to initiate strict action against those responsible.

“This has become a routine that journalists while performing their professional duties are either thrashed or at time showered with pellets. KVJA appeals to governor and DGP to initiate strict action against those who are involved in today’s incident and make sure that it doesn’t happen in the future”.

Reporters Without Borders or Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), an international body for journalists, Tuesday called upon the Indian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the pellet firing at journalists in Shopian.

In a statement on Twitter, RSF said the government forces’ violence’ against Kashmiri photojournalists is ‘unacceptable.’

“Unacceptable violence by #India’s security forces against photojournalists covering a gunfight in south,” RSF tweeted.

“We call on #indian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation on this blatant attack on press freedom. #JournalismIsNotACrime,” it tweeted.

Meanwhile, Kashmir Editors’ Guild (KEG) too strongly condemned the use of pellets against a group of journalists.

“This is not for the first time that the law enforcing agencies have used force against the media persons when they were covering the events on the streets within and outside Srinagar. This has become a routine,” a KEG spokesman said.

He added that every time the issue is being brought to the notice of the authorities, the media is being promised that they will investigate the issue.

“It has rarely happened that action was initiated against anyone for violating the basic conduct vis-a-vis media. Already one photo-journalist has lost an eye to pellets in Srinagar. While police is issuing statements on every single incident from detaining gamblers to seizing fukki, it avoided even mentioning the incident in routine daily statement,” the spokesman said.

KEG demanded a quick and time bound investigation into the incident and action against the personnel found guilty.

“The attacks on media are detrimental to the very existence of a society in 21st century,” the spokesman said.

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Srinagar youth hit with stone ‘hurled by CRPF’

Admitted to SKIMS with fractured skull; CRPF spokesman claims ‘youth fell down’

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Srinagar, Jan 22: A youth from Habba Kadal locality of Srinagar was hospitalised in a serious condition after a stone allegedly hurled by CRPF trooper hit his head on Tuesday afternoon.

Family sources said the boy identified as Mohammad Younis had left home to buy some vegetable, however, a CRPF trooper hurled a stone from the bunker located near Habba Kadal, resulting in serious head injuries to the boy.

Soon after the incident, the injured was rushed to Srinagar’s SMHS hospital, from where he was referred to SKIMS, Soura.

 

Medical Superintendent SKIMS, Dr Farooq Jan, as per a local news agency KNO, said that “parietal bone of the youth had fracture and the bone fragment has sneaked into the skull, leading to contusions.”

He also said that CT scan of the patient will be repeated to ascertain the damage. He, however, maintained that they are monitoring his condition as of now.

Meanwhile, CRPF spokesman, Sanjay Sharma, as per news agency KNO, said a group of five to six youth started pelting stones at the bunker and while chasing them away, a youth “slipped and fell down”.

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