Geneva: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed concern over “grave violations” in Kashmir and has asked the Indian government to end the use of shotgun pellets against children.
“I call upon the government to take preventive measures to protect children, including by ending the use of pellets against children, ensuring that children are not associated in any way to security forces, and endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration and the Vancouver Principles,” he said in the UN Report on Children 2021, Al-Jazeera reported Wednesday.
“A total of 39 children (33 boys, 6 girls) were killed (9) and maimed (30) by pellet guns (11) and torture (2) by unidentified perpetrators (13) (including resulting from explosive remnants of war (7), crossfire between unidentified armed groups and Indian security forces (3), crossfire between unidentified armed groups, and grenade attacks (3), Indian security forces (13), and crossfire and shelling across the Line of Control (13),” said the UN report, referring to the de facto border that divides Kashmir region between India and Pakistan.
The UN report said at least seven schools were used by the Indian forces for months. It added that four children were detained by the government forces in Kashmir for their alleged association with the armed groups.
“I am alarmed at the detention and torture of children and concerned by the military use of schools,” Guterres said.
The UN chief said he welcomed the positive engagement of the Indian government with the UN’s special representative to implement preventive and accountability measures.
“I urge the (Indian) government to ensure that children are detained as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time, and to prevent all forms of ill-treatment in detention,” he said.
“I also urge the (Indian) government to ensure the implementation of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 to address the use of children for illegal activities and the situation of detained children.”
The police and central forces in Kashmir have extensively used shotgun pellets to subdue Kashmiri protesters, many of them young men and teenagers.
During the 2016 agitation triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, more than 1,100 people were partially or fully blinded, the report said.
Many victims were children, some as young as 19-month-old Hiba Nasir, who was injured while sitting in her mother’s lap in November 2018 in a southern Kashmir village, the report added.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has called on the UN Security Council to take immediate action to protect children in conflict zones, particularly in Kashmir, media reports said on Wednesday.
In a written statement to the UN, Munir Akram, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the global body, said Indian forces have been “deliberately targeting” children with pellet guns, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper said.
“The scale and intensity of today’s conflicts is stretching our capacity to protect children,” he said.