In March 2007, under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, an Act of Parliament (December 2005), the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was set up in order to protect the rights of children. One of the steps in this direction was the constitution of "State Commission" in each and every state of the country.
Today, after four years, when most of the Indian states enjoy the presence of an established state commission, children of few states still await a regulatory body to help them obtain their rights. The northernmost Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is one such state that till date doesn't have the commission. It is important that the children of country's most vulnerable state are provided with their basic rights.
The two decade long conflict and political instability and consequent problems have been an obstacle in achieving development in the region in terms of education, economy and health.
Experts criticize the state government for not fulfilling the needs of children and for not protecting their basic rights. They suggest systematic efforts to protect all child rights, primarily the victims of violence, through the establishment of "State Commission for Protection of Child Rights" under the grand "Child Policy of the State".
Abdul Rashid Hanjoora, social activist and lawyer, said that children in Kashmir face two sets of problems. "Firstly, the problems which have infected the entire country - child labour, child prostitution, trafficking, illiteracy, deviance, delinquency, child abuse, malnutrition, fatal diseases, and so on. But, the second sets of problems are not only grave but dangerous as well as they are directly or indirectly related to militancy and militarization in Kashmir."
As history has witnessed, if one fails to get hold of the problem at beginning, it becomes the germinating ground for several other grave issues. In Kashmir, many problems besides the inherited challenges have established a strong hold. At present, there are more than two lakh orphans in the state. Orphans are not the problem; in fact they are the sufferers. Even after the establishment of scores of orphanages in the society, they continue to be the victim of torture and are denied their basic rights.
"Children are the future of nation and their role is vital in nation building, so their protection and welfare ought to be the prime duty of state," he added.
There is a dire need of a watchdog and State Child Right Commission could be the available institute in this behalf. There is an urgent requirement of the Child Protection Council in the state so that lakhs of orphan children could be rehabilitated with no one being neglected.
He suggests that the inclusive framework of child right, ideally, can be borrowed from "Convention of the Rights of Child", adopted by the UN and signed by India too. While it provides a comprehensive picture of child rights, it exclusively emphasizes the states to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence.
A study "Social Impact of Militancy" conducted by renowned sociologist B. A. Dabla reveals that in Kashmir, six prominent groups of children have emerged - Orphaned children estimated number 97, 800, disabled children 2000 - 3000, Mentally deranged and physically diseased children about 3, 000, children of compromised surrendered militants 6,000 - 10, 000, children of imprisoned - LOC youth 4, 500 - 5, 000 and child victims of violence in thousands. According to Mr. Dabla, these children are the "prime victims of violence".
One of the mandates of the NCPCR includes looking into the matters relating to children in need of special care and protection, including children in distress, marginalised and disadvantaged children, children in conflict with law, juveniles, children without family and children of prisoners and recommend appropriate remedial measures. But the present picture tells us how effectively this mandate applies in Jammu and Kashmir.
The government immediately needs to make an objective - scientific understanding and assessment of issues and problems of children who are 'prime victims of violence'. It also needs to formulate policy, which will extend to all the problems.
Besides, there is a need of creation of specific programmes for overall wellbeing and comprehensive rehabilitation of militancy-effected children. He asked for effective implementation of Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and Integrated Child Welfare Scheme, for which 90 percent funds must be claimed from the Centre.
The Charkha Development Communication Network feels that there is a need of sensitizing both - the government and the society towards children of this region that bears the brunt of not only human violence but also the natural challenges like extreme weather and inaccessibility.
The hopes of the innocent eyes are unable to reach the policy makers, but if ignored, these neglected hopes have the potential to paint the entire nation with extreme colors of violence. We, the saviors of human rights, cannot be so cruel. We cannot afford to be. By Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil (ANI)