Tell me, what happened after last fortnight's hue and cry when a three year old child, Aayad, was seen crying on the dead body of his 65-year-old grandfather, Bashir Ahmad Khan, in Kashmir's apple district of Sopore … After those rounds of television discussions and debates on the 'known' or 'unknown' killers of Khan, an eerie quiet prevailed …prevails!
We are not focusing on the effect of this violence and counter-violence on the very psyche of the young and the not-so-young in the Kashmir Valley. This generation of Kashmiris has grown up in tough and trying circumstances. They have spent their childhood in the midst of curfews and crackdowns.
They have never really experienced carefree adolescent days, as insecurities and apprehensions have stood in the way throughout. Disruptions and deaths have left a deep imprint on their young minds. Also, the fact that the young can be checked and re-checked by the security forces in the most humiliating of ways.
Each time I interviewed Kashmir's leading psychiatrist Dr Mushtaq Margoob, he was categorical in detailing that the prevailing turbulence is affecting a large section of the people. "A whole new generation of Kashmiris is growing up in this atmosphere of uncertainty, insecurity and stress. Undoubtedly, I am worried about them. This 'trauma generation' who have hardly seen a minute of complete peace or tranquillity in their lives from birth to present stage of adolescence or young adulthood...The amount of emotional distress, caused by the perpetual state of uncertainty, insecurity and moment-to-moment living in Kashmir , remains anything but hard to imagine. More than 58% of the adult population has experienced or witnessed traumatic life events. The disabling disorder PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) is currently prevalent in more than 7 % of population, so is depression in more than 19 % of people. The women and children are the worst affected…"
There have been surveys conducted by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an international, independent, medical humanitarian organization, which came up with dismal pointers to the emotional disturbances experienced by civilians, connected directly or indirectly with the everyday violence.
And in the Spring of 2018, Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) released this report, titled - Terrorized: Impact of Violence on the Children of Jammu and Kashmir.
The report is an assessment of the violence against children in Jammu and Kashmir in the last fifteen years (2003 to 2017). It also focuses on the grim reality that there are no legal and normative processes or practices protecting children's rights in Jammu and Kashmir as minors have been booked under the repressive Public Safety Act (PSA).
To quote from this report – "Children in Jammu and Kashmir are living in the most militarized zone of the world, with the presence of 7,00,000 troopers, which exposes them to the risk of all grave six violations against children as laid out in United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child…The fifteen-year period from 2003 to 2017, witnessed not less than 318 killings of children (in the age group of 1 to 17) in various incidents of violence in Jammu and Kashmir. The killing of 318 children constitutes 6.95% of the civilian killings in last fifteen years, as 4571 civilians have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir in the same period (2003 – 2017). In the same period, i.e. from 2003 to 2017, at least 16,436 killings were recorded in Jammu and Kashmir, and the majority of them included alleged militants numbering at least 8537 killings. The numbers indicate that in the last fifteen years Jammu and Kashmir in an average year has witnessed at least 1,095 killings, which belies the government's claims of 'return to normalcy'. The pattern of killings of children in the fifteen-year period suggests that children were direct targets of state violence, as part of its stated offensive to curb uprising and militancy. At least 144 children were killed by Indian armed forces and state police in Jammu and Kashmir, which alone accounts for nearly half, i.e. 44.02 percent, of the total children killed. Most of the children, at least 110 of them, killed in state violence were shot dead in different incidents of violence, and not less than 8 children died due to injuries inflicted from pellet shot-guns fired by government forces. Twenty-seven children died due to drowning either caused due to the negligence of armed forces in Wular lake tragedy or being chased by government forces during a protest, where victims find no way of escape from the armed forces and were forced to jump into water bodies, resulting in their death."
Care-givers too need care
Today, in these Corona- ridden times, we are finally focusing on the significance of caregivers--- all those taking care of their ailing and affected family members. But years back only a few focused on the fact that care -givers too need care!
Khushwant Singh and his family were definitely far-sighted. They were instrumental in setting up a special building in one of the hospitals of New Delhi, for the care-givers accompanying their patients from far flung localities and locales.
I'm certain that patients lying in the confines of the Guru Teg Bahadur hospital in New Delhi wouldn't be aware of Khushwant' Singh's role in the building of a modern and well-equipped dharamshala building, for the caregivers accompanying patients. This dharamshala is a 'Sir Sobha Singh' project that came through because of Khushwant's persistence and initiative. He seemed determined that this building come up as part of the hospital bandobast for the caregivers.
In fact, Khushwant and his parents did a lot of charity work, in tune with the Sikh philosophy that one-tenth of the earnings should go to the disadvantaged and needy. As he would detail, "My father always gave one-tenth of his earnings to charity …in fact, whenever my father visited AIIMS ( All India Institute of Medical Sciences) he commented that there was no place for the patients' care givers to stay, particularly all those who travelled from far-off places with their patients. Although he'd tried he couldn't build one in his lifetime .So it was left for the family and to the Sir Sobha Singh Trust to build this dharamshala for patients and their care givers."
Encounters - New way to death
Whilst there could be hundreds of ways to dying and death, but here in our country, getting killed in encounters is another of those surest ways to death. Killed by the so called 'unknown' or known killers in the most horrifying way and yet no apparent halt to these brutal killings by the State. State terrorism peaking, yet like mute spectators we sit, viewing these encounter killings!
Though the State flaunts these blatant killings, where's the transparency and accountability! Thousands have already been killed in these encounter killings. Maybe our turn comes tomorrow, if not the day after!
Last year I had written in this column, details to the 'near encounter' of Mufti Abdul Qayyum Ahmed Husain Mansuri — implicated in the Akshardham case, imprisoned for 11 long years, till finally acquitted by the Supreme Court of India. After he was acquitted, he wrote a book on his imprisonment years, where he has also detailed the near encounter he experienced!
In the backdrop of the encounters of human beings taking place with such frequency as though the State is killing all the non-living around, I read , rather re- read, details of the near- encounter that Mufti Mansuri experienced. Quoting details from his book 'I Am A Mufti & I Am Not A Terrorist -11 Years Behind the Bars'. (Published by Jamaat Ulama Ahmedabad and Maharashtra).
"It was the cold night of Thursday, 18 September 2003. I was sleeping in Vanaar's office in such a position/condition that one of my hands was cuffed and locked with the table. I was asleep with great difficulty when one of the officers awakened me by kicking me on my back with his shoes. Singhal was standing in front of me... Behind Singhal one face was seen. He was V.D Vanaar. On Singhal's order, the hand-cuff was unlocked from my hand. V.D Vanaar took me along and said, 'Come on, it's Sahab's order today your encounter has to be done .I was told you offer namaaz /salah for dead persons , today offer namaaz for yourself. I was pushed to sit in a Tata Sumo … After misfiring on me on one or two places, Vanaar asked for the revolver from P.S.I., R.I. Patel, and after directing the vehicle (Tata Sumo) on two- three roads, told the driver to take it near the canal. On the way Vanaar also narrated the legend of his mastery in encounters and the allotment of medals from the government. He said : see I have killed Hameed Lala. I have killed Ranapwala here on the stairs of the crime branch, and he counted some more names and said even after so many encounters what harm the government and the court has done to me, on the contrary I was given bravery medal 'Puraskar' and 51,000 – as an award. Today this encounter of yours is the sixth one …The vehicle was stopped at one place in the dark night. As per my assumption it was some place behind the airport, because the lights of the airport were seen from there, on both sides of the road there was the canal… Then they led the vehicle deep inside on the other side of the canal, on the left side and all the bravos got down from the vehicle after stopping it at a vast open space and they also got me down by pulling my beard and abusing me …Vanaar took out the revolver and told his companions to move aside after he aimed the revolver on my head. I was standing alive dumb with amazement and astonished, because the bullet did not strike my head but had passed by my head. After that total five fires were shot on my right and left side of my head and on the left and right of my legs .… Until now, Mr. A.A. Chauhan, being a silent audience, took entry on the scene. He came forward and said, Vanaar sahab don't kill him. I want to give him a last chance ,after talking to superior officer. Then asked me, turning towards me – if you confess all that the superior office says then I can save your life…"
Though he was not killed that encounter night, as he has detailed in his book the tortures on him continued all those 11 years he was imprisoned.