Written by Nisar Dharma / Firdous Hassan
Srinagar/Baramulla, May 13: Protests against the Sumbal ‘rape’ incident intensified Monday as dozens of people were grievously injured in clashes with government forces in several parts of north Kashmir.
People in huge numbers came out on roads demanding capital punishment for the accused arrested for allegedly raping a three-year old girl in Sumbal area of Bandipora earlier this week.
On the evening of 8 May, a 3-year-old girl was allegedly raped by his neighbour after luring her to a nearby school.
Though the accused was arrested on the same day, the outrage against the incident gathered pace after a photo of the date of birth certificate issued to the accused by a local school declaring him as a minor went viral on social media.
While police declared the certificate as “fake” and said the accused was a major, it drew huge criticism from locals in Sumbal, who came out on roads in protest on Saturday. On Sunday, the protests spilled over to other districts as well.
Monday saw the outrage intensifying as multiple episodes of clashes and protests were reported from several areas in Bandipora, Baramulla, Budgam, Srinagar and Pulwama districts.
The townships of most of these districts also witnessed a complete shutdown.
While here in Press Enclave over a dozen rallies were organised throughout the day, people took to streets in other parts of the city including Alamgiri Bazar, Zadibal, Saidakadal, Bemina, Shalimar, and Ashai Bagh.
The highway between Baramulla and Srinagar was blocked throughout the day by protestors who clashed with paramilitary personnel deployed to pacify the situation.
Between Mirgund and Pattan town, at least two dozen protesters were grievously injured by pellet firing and tear gas shells.
At least 20 wounded people, include a female, were reported at SK Institute of Medical Sciences, Bemina, officials at the hospital told The Kashmir Monitor.
The officials said that one of the injured, Arshid Hussain, 25, son of Ghulam Mohammad Dar of Chanabal area in Pattan, had grievous injuries to his face and skull and was shifted from Bemina to SKIMS, Soura in a critical condition.
MS SKIMS Dr Farooq Jan said the youth was put on ventilator and his condition remained critical.
Sources in the hospital said that the youth had “severe brain injuries” and “had little chances of survival”.
The list of the 20 injured provided by the Bemina hospital showed that most of them were hit by pellets on face and skull.
The area between Pattan town and Narbal witnessed intense clashes throughout the day as protestors –including females – blocked the highway by burning tyres and placing huge logs across the road.
The protest turned violent thereafter as the protestors smashed window panes of two ambulances at Chanabal.
At Hanjiwera Payeen in Pattan, women came out in large number and blocked the road by burning tyres and wooden logs.
Hundreds of the vehicles remained stranded right from Hanjiwera to Narbal, a stretch of nearly 15 kilometres.
Many stranded passengers disembarked from the vehicles and marched on foot as traffic witnessed no movement for hours together.
Firdous Ahmad, a commuter travelling from Baramulla to Srinagar said he was stuck on the highway at Pattan from 9:30 am till 3 pm.
“The road has been blocked and there are intense clashes going on. Some civilian cars too have been damaged,” he said over the phone while being stuck close to Mirgund.
“There is no way I can turn back since there are protests going on at Pattan as well,” he said.
Reports of clashes came from other areas of the district including Baliharan, Hygam, Delina, Sopore town.
The students of higher secondary school and degree college Sopore too held a peaceful protest at Iqbal market area of the town amid a complete shutdown.
In Bandipora, protests and clashes were reported from Sumbal.
The students of Kashmir University and Islamic University Awantipora also held protest rallies against the horrific incident.
Police have constituted a special investigation team to investigate the alleged rape case.
SSP Bandipora, Rahul Malik said the SIT comprising SDPO Sumbal, SHO Sumbal and Senior Prosecuting Officer would investigate the entire case.
He said the police “are treating the accused as major” and the certificate that was uploaded on the social media regarding the age of the accused was “fake”.
He appealed to the people to not pay heed to any rumours and have “faith in the police”.
A police official said the age of the accused will be determined on the basis of “medical test” to be conducted by a team of senior doctors.
Almost two months into the year: No action plan for districts submitted yet
Srinagar, May 20: The delay in finalizing the district action plans for the current year may hit the developmental works in Jammu and Kashmir.
Though the financial year began on April 1, the district development plans in the state are yet to be finalized for 2019-2020.
Principal Secretary, Finance Department, Arun Kumar Mehta, recently wrote a letter to district development commissioners to furnish the yearly district action plans.
“All district development commissioners shall initiate tendering process immediately after model code of conduct is over and ensure that process is completed before March 31 for commencement of works. The annual maintenance contract should be based on the rate of contract as per laid down rules and regulation,” the order reads.
It says that delay in furnishing of this information will entail “further” delay in the tendering process and have “cascading” effect on the executing of ongoing works. It will subsequently lead to delay in execution of new works.
An official of the Planning and Development Department said that delay in finalising the district development plans would affect developmental works in Kashmir.
“The district development commissioners should have finalised the district development plans even though they were busy with elections. The Valley would be adversely affected due to delay in finalizing the district development plans as Kashmir has a limited working season,” the official said.
The Kashmir has a limited working season from May to October and the region’s developmental activities are worst affected when there is delay in the approval of annual plan or there is some disturbance in the Valley.
“The non-finalization of the plan would lead to delay in execution of works as funds remain unspent. Once the funds meant for Kashmir get lapsed, they are diverted to Jammu region,” the official added.
During 2018-2019, Rs 4,000 crore had lapsed in the state due to non-utilisation of funds.
District development commissioner formulates the plans with the assistance of district level officers as per guide lines and parameters set by Planning and Development Department. The district development commissioner has to monitor all the developmental programmes in the district.
Decline in number of local youth joining militancy: Army
Jammu, May 20: Top Army commander, Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Northern Command Monday said even though the local militant recruitment has shown a significant decline, “the issue of local boys joining militancy remains a matter of concern.”
“Local recruitment remains a matter of concern for all of us. Last year, we had 217 local youth who had picked up militancy. This year, the number has significantly reduced and as on date there are only 40 youth who have picked up arms,” Lieutenant General Singh said while addressing the media in Udhampur.
Out of 40, six were killed in various encounters in South and North Kashmir while as three had returned. The Army had claimed that its appeal to Kashmiri mothers was proving a success as youth who had picked up arms were returning back to the mainstream.
According to the figures available with the KNO, in 2017, the number of youth who had picked up arms in J&K was around 240 that reduced to 2017 in 2018. In 2016, the number was around 200, as per the official figures.
The Army commander said that one of the key reasons for locals picking up gun was the “radicalization and exploitation of social media by Pakistani agencies.” The army commander said that Pakistan was feeling “starved” due to a very effective counter infiltration grid of the Indian Army.
It is pertinent to mention that only 40 youth joining militancy this summer so far in Jammu and Kashmir is lowest ever since 2016. However, officials assert that they won’t take a chance and will ensure local militant recruitment remains plugged in remaining months of the year especially the summer months when infiltration is expected to pick up due to melting of snow. According to officials, no foreign militant was killed on the LoC this year so far.
‘VDCs useful, need to energise them’
Press Trust of India
Udhampur, May 20: The Army Monday batted strongly for “energising” village defence committees (VDCs) in Jammu and Kashmir calling them a “useful instrument” for the state.
The VDCs were setup in the mid-1990s with an aim to strengthen the security of those living in remote and mountainous areas of Doda, Kishtwar, Ramba, Rajouri, Reasi, Kathua and Poonch districts of the region.
A total of 4,125 VDCs exist in the state. “VDCs are most useful instrument available with the state”, General Officer Commanding in Chief (GoC-In-C), Northern Command, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh told reporters here.
“They (VDCs) are always to be energised and they shall be able to take on responsibility (of securing the villages in remote and hilly areas) tasked to them,” he added. The Army commander said that it must be ensured that the volunteers are provided weapons so that they can “defend their villages and pass information to the security forces regarding movement and presence of militants.”
“All have to play a role to ensure peace and normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. Notably, the Army has reached out to VDCs in various districts to strengthen the security apparatus of the population of rural and remote areas in Jammu region.
Suffering in silence: Sexual abuse takes heavy toll on children in Kashmir
Srinagar, May 20: Ahmad’s room is a witness to his feats. His glass almirah is decorated with trophies and certificates that he won for his excellent grades and extra circular activities. A brilliant student, he was looking forward to top the upcoming matriculation exams when world suddenly came crashing down. His grades started falling and he turned aggressive by the day. What complicated the problem was his addiction to cannabis and psychotropic drugs.
“He shed a sea of tears while narrating his ordeal. It wasn’t the drug abuse; it was the sexual abuse that had worsened his mental health. His classmate had sexually assaulted him in front of group of boys and mocked him”, said the counselor at a private school in the valley.
Ahmad is not the isolated case. Rizwan (name changed), 16, fainted in class when the teacher was delivering a lecture. His sister and her husband rushed to the school and took him to the physician. The doctor gave some medicines for dehydration and didn’t take it seriously. The problem didn’t end here. The boy refused to eat or drink and locked himself in the room throughout the day.
“He looked like corpse when he was brought here. The reason for his high level of anxiety was the sexual abuse he faced. He was sodomised by his elder brother. We made the brother apologize before him. That has alleviated his pain to some extent,” said the counselor at Department of psychiatry, SMHS.
Mental health counselors’ note that the sexual abuse of young boys and girls mostly go unreported because of the family taboos. “They think it will bring humiliation to the family and the only thing they can do for the victim other than counseling is to make the perpetrator apologize”, said a counselor
Even children are often scared to report the abuse. “Many cases of abuse are not reported. Most of the time it remains a secret crime, unless the victim is bold enough to tell someone about it. Mostly such crimes remain under wraps. This abuse can take place at home school or in places where child labour is common”, said Ezabir Ali, a noted Social Activist.
Experts dealing with such cases say most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims and they can be relatives of the child, most often brothers, fathers, uncles, or cousins; neighbors and even strangers.
“What can be done? We need to encourage children to speak. The communication channel between parents (especially mother) and children should be open so that the child feels confident to shares when something is not going right. We need to make children aware of good touch and bad touch”, said Ali.
Psychiatrists say that childhood sexual abuse is less talked about and least researched in spite of being associated with a broad array of adverse long term consequences for survivors.
“It creates powerlessness, betrayal, stigmatization, and sexualization; each having a profound effect on further development of child. Using Victims of childhood sexual abuse report more symptoms of anxiety and depression”, said Dr Arshad Hussain, a leading psychiatrist who works as associate professor, psychiatry at Government Medical College, Srinagar.
What has complicated the problem is that there is a dearth of counselors in schools who can tackle such issues. “A handful of counselors at some noted private schools and colleges remain confined to being just academic counselors. We have to increase the domain of counselling”, said Dr Saima Farhad, Professor at MSW Department in University of Kashmir.
According to Dr Saima, there are three levels by which we can curb such incidents, “The first step begins from the family. Parents have to make their children understand the difference between good touch and bad touch. The second level begins at the school. We have a lot of Co-ed schools. The teachers have to make the students aware about the difference between a boy and a girl and at the same ensure that no difference is being done based on their gender”, she said
Experts suggest a separate wing in the police department to deal with the sex abuse cases for speedy justice.
“We have dearth of investigating officers in police stations. There is one IO in every police station and he is single-handedly dealing with 10-15 cases. The delay happens because we have to multi-task. There should be a separate wing for law and order, a wing for dealing with cases for CSA and qualitatively segregating the options”, said an investigating officer, who requested anonymity.