According to a report by Save the Children “Stop the war on Children” , approximately 420 million children making one in five children of the world live in areas affected by armed conflict. Now more than ever, children are silently suffering from impacts of war and conflict.

This seems surprising considering we are living in the 21st century, with the presence of UN peace bodies, international treaties and norms. The nature of conflict has become such that there in little regard of international treaties and norms and most armed conflicts have seeped in urban areas amongst civilian population. They are not fought in battlegrounds instead schools and homes of children are on the front line.

The six grave violations against children in armed conflict, identified by UN Security Council include 1) killing and maiming of children 2) recruitment and use of children as child soldiers 3) sexual violence 4) abduction 5) attacks on schools and hospitals 6) denial of humanitarian access.

It is important to understand that these violations are also happening in Indian occupied Kashmir and are increasing day by day. In the report “Terrorized: Impact of Violence on the Children of Jummu and Kashmir” it was reported that children are vulnerable and so as a way of terrorizing and gaining control, they may be deliberately targeted. To induce fear and compliance, they are raped, kidnapped and tortured. In Indian occupied Kashmir, deaths, disability and disfigurement due to injuries caused by pellet gun, use of tear gas, bullets and shelling as well as drowning, inhaling shell fumes are common and have been reported in international and national media. Although, it can be assumed that reported cases are only the tip of the iceberg, more than 318 deaths of children have been reported from 2003-2017.

While child emotional abuse, physical abuse and neglect is common and probably not even taken in account, sexual violence, trafficking, forced marriages and conversions is a major child protection issue dominant in areas of conflict. Encouragement from leaders of Indian ruling party, advocating for violence and forced marriages can already be seen on mainstream India media.

The blockades, curfews censorship to complete internet blackout, hampering all communication channels implies that whatever information which is coming out of Kashmir is just a fraction of what is happening there.. Relaying on little data and information due to complete media censorship, one can only infer the kind of human rights violations that are taking place from previous reports and information.

According to the report on the human rights in Kashmir by the office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (2018), militarization of Kashmir along with frequent blockades and curfews have serious implications on the children right to health and education. Hundreds of children have died due to indirect effects including malnutrition, unhygienic living conditions, poor water and sanitation, insufficient health care along with diseases and preventable illnesses. The breakdown of health care systems especially in unrest, attacks on healthcare professional and ambulances have also contributed to this growing number.

With schools being shut for months and children being restricted to their homes, their right to development is also severely compromised. While the Indian government has claimed that schools have not been shut even during the 2016 unrest, reports have shown otherwise. According to reports on Kashmir, at least 31 schools had been damaged during 2016 unrest and at least 4-7 schools were occupied by the military endangering the lives of teachers and students within the vicinity.

The report on the human rights in Kashmir by the office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (2018) emphasizes on serious observations focusing on arbitrary arrests and detention of children. While Jummu and Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978, is the most common used law for detention, it appears no SOPs or rules are made under this law especially for those under 18 years of age, often resulting in detention and torture for days, months and even years. This law allows detention without trial which could last for up to two years. This law has been termed as “lawless law” by Amnesty International.

A survey by Save the Children (2012) points out the number of orphans in J&K to be 215,000 children, most of which are the result of violence by military. Children growing up in such stressful and violent environment yearning for freedom and resisting force, are often dealing with a lot of trauma. This is passed from one generation to the other, so much so that every child born is born as a survivor, having to fight to survive. The brutal violence by the state itself, only aspires them to take matters in their own hands and desire for freedom from India. While the world sees their misery as bystanders, they struggle with mixed feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, courage and desire to take revenge.

Currently we can only imagine what could be the possible situation in areas of armed conflict such as Indian occupied Kashmir. While India does not recognize the framework for international or non-international armed conflict laws, it is important for us to use whichever platforms available to influence India to uphold standards of conduct in conflict. It needs to take practical steps to protect all human being, including children, to not use excessive force and to support the recovery to those who have suffered due to this ongoing conflict. If it is unable to do so, the United Nations Security Council and other bodies including the Court of Justice needs to hold it accountable for the human rights violation, especially against children. The national and international media needs to play its role in advocating for peace and justice and for accountability. The world leaders need to seriously consider how they are leading this world, for more than one fifth of the world population vulnerable in armed conflict, and especially for a child born in Indian Occupied Kashmir.