A fact-finding team has claimed that as many as 13,000 young boys had been arrested by the security forces in Kashmir since 5 August.
Presenting ‘fact-finding report,’ women from the National Federation of Indian Women and Muslim Women’s Forum, were quoted by news agency PTI, “One estimate given to us was 13,000 boys lifted during this lockdown.”
The members of the fact-finding team which visited Kashmir were Annie Raja, Kawaljit Kaur and Pankhuri Zaheer from the National Federation of Indian Women, Poonam Kaushik from the Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan and Syeda Hameed from the Muslim Women’s Forum. They reportedly visited the valley from 17 September and returned on 21 September.
Their report stated that the purpose of their visit to Kashmir was to with their ‘own eyes how this 43-day lockdown had affected the people, particularly women and children.’ Demanding that the Army and paramilitary forces be withdrawn with immediate effect, the report said, “Restore Article 370 and 35A. All future decisions about the political future of Jammu and Kashmir must be taken through a process of dialogue with the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Annie Raja alleged excesses by the Army and other security personnel adding that the ‘army cannot remain a holy cow’ anymore. The activists also demanded a time-bound inquiry into the allegations of brutalities by the Indian security forces.
“We went to hospitals, schools, homes, market places, spoke to people in the rural as well as urban areas, to men, women, youth and children. This report is our eyewitness account of ordinary people who have lived for 43 days under an iron siege,” Raja, who’s the wife of CPI leader D Raja, was quoted by PTI.
The report said that such was the brutality of the security forces that they arrested a father and his son in Bandipora by forcibly entering their house because a young girl in the family had dared to keep the lamp on for study after 8 PM. The report said that families are not allowed to keep their lights on after 8 pm. According to the report, the girl in questioning wanted to keep herself fully prepared in case the situation improved for them to attend schools.
The activists said that they had deliberately changed the names of individuals in their report to ensure that they did not face reprisals from the security forces.
The Indian government had abrogated Article 370 on 5 August and bifurcated the state into two union territories. The valley has been cut off from the rest of the world since then with residents denied access to internet or mobile phone.