Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Protecting Children in Today's Society

Ghulam Nabi Khan speaks for all

Save Children, Save Future

For the last 19 years state of J&K is passing through political turmoil. Such internal conflicts have a shocking impact upon civilian population, most particularly women and children. We have presently more than eighty thousand orphans in the valley who are living a miserable life, full of mental agony, depression, distress, negligence, and despair; around 15,308 orphan children have been identified in J&K.

Children constitute 38% of the population of J&K State and out of this population 2 to 3% are the orphans who need special attention. Presently only 1600 orphan children are staying in orphanages and Bal Ashrams as well as in Nari Niketans of the state government.

It is true that prior to the conflict situation of Kashmir the rate of juvenile delinquency was very less. But now the number has increased due to negligent attitude of parents, degradation of moral values and mental depression of children. Socio-economic conditions prevailing in certain families living below poverty line has led many children to crime; the impact of violence can be seen in the rising trend of crime and moral degradation among children.

Like other criminals we have to deal with the delinquents for their crimes but the constitution provides special procedure and enactment for these children. In the state of J&K we have Juvenile Justice Act, 1997, law passed on the same pattern as we have in centre but in the state this Act is not implemented because the rules have not been framed and approved so far, with the result the juveniles are tried in normal courts and are being kept in existing jails because no juvenile rehabilitation homes are existing in the state; no juvenile board has been established in J&K. Many children below the age of 16 are being kept in police stations and in normal jails and are being produced before routine magistrates so how can we expect the rehabilitation of these delinquents. Since the juvenile justice system is not functioning in the state people, more particularly NGOs have to act as a pressure group on the state government for evolving the system under Juvenile Justice Act.

Regarding the interest of the government of J&K towards unfortunate children of this state, there are no remand homes, observation homes or similar other institution for the juvenile offenders as provided under Section 9 to 12 of State Juvenile Justice Act, 1997.

The prerequisite condition of Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice Act, 1997 states that the child below the age of 16 years should be treated as juvenile. To achieve this goal there should be juvenile courts for conducting the trials of juvenile offenders, it is also provided by this Act that “Juvenile home, observation homes place of safety” should be provided for delinquent children so that they don’t fall in the company of hard core criminals in normal jails.

If the children are a national asset, it is the duty of the state to look after them with a view to ensure full development of their personalities. But today we see the children are not protected and groomed properly. Many hapless children today languish in jails with hard core criminals. It is provided in all the statutes dealing with children that a child shall not be kept in a routine jail. Even apart from this statutory prescription, it is recognized by all that jail is hardly a place where a child should be kept. There can be no doubt that incarceration of children in jails does have the effect of impeding the development of child, exposing him to baneful influences which coarsen his conscience and alienates him from the society. It is a matter of unease that despite statutory provisions and frequent exhortations by social scientists, there is still a large number of children languishing in different jails of the State.

If the government of J&K is unable to provide remand homes, observation homes or other institutions for these offenders then these offenders should be released on Bail as provided by the Supreme Court in the case of Sheela Barse Vs. Union of India (AIR 1986 S.C 1773).

We also know that “teenagers are hot-blooded” so they are prone to criminal activities. They need proper observation and care. Thus observation and care shall come only if they are separated from hardcore criminals. This will certainly help us in moulding their psyche.

If a child is kept with hardcore criminals it adversely affects his personality, his mind, his heart, his soul and in turn he also gets initiated into criminal activities. This was fully enforced by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Sheela Barse and others Vs. Union of India. Under Constitution of India, Children Act of 1986 was passed though it was not enforced by some States. Yet Supreme Court in this case directed that such beneficial statute should be brought into force and administered without delay.

Supreme Court also held that;

It is no answer on the part of the State to say that it has not got enough number of remand homes, observation homes or other place where children can be kept and that is why they are lodged in Jails.

It is also no answer on the part of the State to urge that the wards in the Jails where the children are kept are separated from the wards in which the other prisoners are detained. It is the atmosphere of the jail which has the highly injurious effect on the mind of the child, estranging him from the society and breading in him aversion bordering on hatred against a system which keeps him in jail. So the State governments must setup necessary remand houses and observation homes where children accused of an offence can be lodged, pending investigation and trial. If State governments don’t have sufficient accommodation in its remand homes and observation homes, children should be released on bail instead of being subjected to incarceration in Jails.

Supreme Court in the same case also directed that children below the age of 16 years should be released on bail instead of lodging them in Jails.

Thus, it should be noted here that children below the age of 16 years should be released on bail if there are no such remand homes, observation homes or institutions connected with delinquent or destitute children.

Supreme Court also directed the High Courts and District Courts under Article 32 to submit to it information of children in jails, existence of Juvenile Courts etc. However, there has been noncompliance to this by some courts, so further directions have been issued to High Courts to ensure compliance.

The government should implement the J&K Juvenile Justice Act, 1997 in letter which could regulate the functioning of these children in need of care and protection otherwise these children cannot be nourished in a proper way.

The Youth Parliament of J&K, a registered educational charitable, non-profit trust in collaboration with Action Aid’s Fellowship 2008-2009 is of the opinion that we put pressure on the Sate government to implement the Juvenile Justice Act, 1997 in letter and spirit and make efforts to rescue their future and rehabilitate them so that they can grow in an atmosphere where they feel safe, secured and protected.
The Youth Parliament of J&K is eager to welcome other organizations who are working for the protection and welfare of child rights in and outside the State of J&K. It is the crying need of the hour to address the issues and save the future of our nation. We must not forget that children have every right to enjoy their childhood with liberty and freedom, dignity and honour.

I may sum-up that children of Jammu & Kashmir should be protected in every possible way. They should be given proper treatment when they commit any offence. They should not be ill treated. We should take every care of their mind and soul so that they don’t develop perverted and abnormal behavious.

(Rising Kashmir)

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