Kashmir: Juveniles getting attracted to militancy

People inspect a damaged house after a gunfight between militants and security forces at Mujgund area on the outskirts of Srinagar. (AFP Photo)

The killing of two militants, aged 14 and 17, in an encounter with security forces on Saturday on the outskirts of Srinagar has once again brought to fore the fact that more and more juveniles are getting attracted towards militancy.

 
Mudassir Rashid (14), a student of eighth standard and Saqib Bilal Sheikh (17), a class 11th student had gone missing from their homes on August 31- the day an encounter took place in Parray Mohalla Hajin of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district in which three Pakistani militants were killed. According to the police, both the teenagers formally joined militant ranks on October 15 and remained active for less than two months.
 
Mudassir became the youngest militant to get consumed by the 29-year-old bloody conflict in the state. Though Burhan Wani, the poster boy of new age militancy in Kashmir, was only 15-year-old when he joined militancy in 2010, he was 21 when security forces killed him in 2016.
 
The killing of Muddasir has evoked a debate whether a juvenile militant should be spared and rehabilitated instead of killing him. Sajjad Lone, a former minister in BJP-PDP government, was one among those questioning the tactics of forces to kill the 14-year-old militant.
 
“The killing of a fourteen-year-old is sad and scary. The administration should exhaust all non-military options when a minor is involved. calling off such an operation is a better option. And the involvement of minors in non-state military activity merits thought from the society (sic),” he tweeted.
 
Majid Hyderi, a journalist and a political commentator in a Facebook post wrote: “Labeling a 14-yr-old as "Terrorist" is contemptuous and killing him even bigger abuse of Child Laws, to say the least (sic).”
 
Dr Asima Hassan, a member of Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) in Kashmir, says not only the state but separatist leaders in Kashmir too should give a serious thought and ensure that children, who are becoming the casualty of the armed conflict, are saved. 
 
“The children are but innocent because they are young, immature and unable to decide the difference between right and wrong. A society is known by how much it cares for its children, our future generation. If we do not care about them, we do not provide them right environment, we are going to be ruined,” she warned.
 
Though international laws prohibit the recruitment of juveniles into any armed conflict and seek their protection, a number of juvenile militants have been killed in Kashmir in recent years. The United Nations Convention on the rights of children (UNRC) 1989, of which India became a signatory in 1992, talks about the protection and care of children and states even a child who joins militancy needs to be rescued. 
 
Under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, “conscripting or enlisting children into armed forces or groups constitutes a war crime in both international and non-international armed conflicts.”
 
In June this year, a United Nations (UN) report mentioned that Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizbul Mujahideen militant outfits recruited and used children in Jammu and Kashmir during clashes with security forces in 2017.
 
The annual report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, covering the January-December 2017 period, noted three incidents of recruitment and use of children by the two militant outfits.
 
“One case was attributed to Jaish-e-Mohammed and two to Hizbul Mujahideen,” the report said, adding that “unverified” reports also indicate use of children as informants and spies by the security forces.

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Kashmir: Juveniles getting attracted to militancy

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