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Suffering in silence: Sexual abuse takes heavy toll on children in Kashmir

Hirra Azmat

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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.


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Militant, Army officer killed in Anantnag gunfight

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Srinagar, Jun 17: An Army officer and a militant were killed and three other soldiers including a Major injured in a gunfight in south Kashmir Anantnag district on Monday, police said.

Police sources said the officer was shot at during the firing exchange between the holed-up militants and security forces in Bidoora village in Achabal area of the district.

The slain militant was believed to be a foreigner.

 

SSP Anantnag, Altaf Khan said that the operation was launched following specific inputs about the presence of some militants in the area.

He said that as the joint team intensified the searches, the militants, hiding in the area, opened fire which was retaliated, triggering off a gunfight.

Initially, sources said, the joint team of forces and militants exchanged gunfire for some time during which the house, in which the militants were hiding, was damaged. Later there was a lull for about an hour even as Army rushed more reinforcements and the joint team started searches to find out the militants.

Soon the militants rose from the debris and opened indiscriminate fire on the forces, resulting in the on-spot death of Major Keetan Sharma and injuries to three others including another Army Major Rahul Verma, sources said.

They added the joint team of forces retailed the fire, leading to the fresh gunfight in an open field. While one militant was killed and the search operation is underway to find if there is any more militant hiding in the area.

The identity and group affiliation of the slain militant is being ascertained, sources said.

Meanwhile, youth took to streets and pelted stones at the security forces. The police and paramilitary CRPF deployed in the area used tear smoke shells and pellets to disperse them.

In wake of the operation, the authorities snapped internet service in the southern district.

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IED blast in Pulwama, 6 soldiers, 2 civilians injured

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Srinagar, Jun 17: Militants on Monday attempted to blow off an Army vehicle in a village in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

A police official said that an armoured vehicle of Army came under an IED attack in Hargam Arihal village of Pulwama. He added that after the blast militants also fired some gunshots towards the vehicle.

Local residents informed that they heard huge blast followed by gunshots.

 

Reports said that six soldiers and two civilians were injured in the blast. The soldiers were shifted to Army’s 92 base hospital at Badamibagh, Srinagar for treatment.

The area was soon cordoned off, officials said.

Earlier, reports said that militants exploded an IED under a Casper vehicle, extensively damaging it, as an army convoy passed through Arihal. However, the army clarified that the damaged vehicle was not a Casper, but an Ashok Leyland Stallion truck.

Three of them who were travelling in the cabin of the vehicle are stated to be serious, the news agency reported.

The blast was triggered by militants using a car laden with explosives, GNS reported attributing the same to “initial investigations by police.”

“A police officer that the explosives were fitted inside a car and investigators are probing the owner of the vehicle. Asked, which type of vehicle was used, the officer said that it is a matter of investigation,” the news agency reported.

“Samples have been collected and further probe is underway,” the officer was quoted saying.

In a statement, the Army called the attack a “failed attempt” by militants. The troops are safe, barring a few minor injuries, it said, adding, “The area has been cordoned and search operations are in progress”.

The blast comes days after Pakistan had reportedly shared information with India and America regarding the possibility of major militant attack in the south Kashmir district. (With inputs from GNS)

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Emotional scenes at slain SHO’s wreath-laying ceremony

Syed Nashir Ali Gillani

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SSP Srinagar, Dr Haseeb Mughal holding in his lap the son of slain SHO Arshid Khan during the wreath laying ceremony at DPL, Srinagar on Monday – Photo: Umar Ganie

Srinagar, Jun 17: Emotional scenes were Monday witnessed at District Police Lines (DPL) Srinagar as top cops and bureaucrats attended the wreath-laying ceremony of the slain police officer Arshad Khan, who had sustained critical injuries in a militant attack in Anantnag last week and later succumbed to his injuries at AIIMS, Delhi on Sunday.

J&K Police chief Dilbagh Singh, Advisors to Governor K Vijay Kumar and KK Sharma, Home Secretary Shaleen Kabra, Divisional Commissioner Baseer Ahmed Khan, ADGP Muneer Khan, and SSP Srinagar Dr Haseeb Mughal, among other civil and police officers were present on the occasion.

J&K Police shared two heart wrenching photos of Dr Mughal carrying the deceased’s son in his arms during the wreath-laying ceremony.

 

In the photos, a teary-eyed Haseeb is seen carrying slain Arshad Khan’s son while paying tributes to his colleague.

On the occasion, Advisor Kumar said that more than 1600 J&K Police personnel have lost their lives in the line of duty.

On June 12, around 4:50 pm, five paramilitary troopers and a militant were killed and four other security forces personnel including Arshad sustained injuries after militants attacked a joint party of CRPF and police at bus stand Anantnag.

Arshad was immediately evacuated to a nearby hospital and then to Srinagar’ SK Institute of Medical Sciences, Soura. After being treated there for a few days, he was flown to Delhi’s AIIMS hospital where he succumbed to his injuries on Sunday.

According to police, Arshad was inducted into police services in the year 2002 and was presently posted as SHO Anantnag. Khan is survived by father and mother, wife Neelofar, 5-year-old son Abuhan Khan, Danim 2, and a brother.

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