People of Kashmir, by tradition, respect their elders. As the parable goes, 'they wash their feet and drink that water'. Thousands of elderly people have either been killed or tortured in a dehumanising manner. Their beards have been pulled and they have been beaten up. They have been searched in line-ups on the roads, stripped bare in front of the members of community. These elderly have suffered because they would not reveal the whereabouts of the young ones.
On 13th November 1994, the military moved in and occupied Sichun village in South Kashmir, searched the whole village and made arrests after chaotic scenes were created. Gukam Hussain, Sheik and Hussian Kada, both elderly, were tortured for 3 hours in a school building and beaten up with heavy boots and sticks. They carry the scars around on their bodies along with poignant memories.
|If you are frail, handicapped or elderly, chances are you will get shot.|
A group of reporters were taken in a boat to a village off Dal lake. This house was full of women sat waiting round the body of an elderly man. His chest was riddled with bullet holes. Early that morning, the army raided the village causing the people to flee for cover. A woman was killed trying to escape in a small boat. The dead man, it transpired was deaf and dumb. He did not know that the troops were coming.
"Mankind owes to the child the best it has to give" (UN). The best the children of Kashmir get is agony, bloodshed and an uncertain future.
Children and babies of all ages have been killed or injured. They have all witnessed bloodshed, violent crackdown operations by the army and live ammunition flying about everywhere. Schools have been invaded and massacres have taken place where children were involved. There are 225 children under treatment for broken bones.
Children were killed in fires deliberately set to their homes by the army. In July 1995, in Uri, two children were recovered from the rubble with 90% burns after their house was set alight by the army; the children had been hiding inside with fear.
It has been reported that during the last week of August 1995, at least 103 people were killed including a 4 day-old baby in Srinagar, summer capital of the state.
Education came to a halt five years ago; schools are either closed because the building has been burnt down or closed by the orders of the administration for some alleged militant activity (196 schools have been closed). No one takes study seriously when they have chaos and a state of war in their streets everyday.
Mr Radhika Coomaraswamy, the special reporter on crimes against women, stated that, "During 1992 alone 882 women were gang-raped by security forces in Jammu & Kashmir".
Women in Kashmir have endured the brunt of the revolution. An estimated one million women have either been bereaved, tortured or humiliated and beaten up or killed; many hundreds have been subjected to barbaric sexual assaults.
Sexual harassment is used as a weapon to subvert people into submission. Gang-rapes have made headlines over the last five years. The most frightful incidents were from Kunan Pushpora, Shopian, Chanapora in the capital city, Kupwara and Baramulla. Anywhere, anytime the female children and older women get the worst treatment. These violations are unremitting in spite of the world wide condemnation by the governments and Human Rights organisations.
On 18th September 1995, Mrs Saja Begam, 46, from Shikargah, reported to the local police that the BSF commander Jai Singh had searched her house six times. "He wants to commit rape with my two daughters. I want protection." Two days later, Singh raided the house with a hooded informer. Saja uncovered the face of the informer and was protesting when Singh shot her in the heart at point blank range and killed her. Residents came out to protest; they were beaten up.
The dreaded attack by soldiers and an assault on their honour and body remains in the minds of every woman in Kashmir; at all times.
Medical facilities are stretched in Kashmir. The medical staff are petrified as some prominent doctors and medical personnel have been killed, accused of treating injured 'militants'. Many doctors have fled. Hospitals have no beds for cold surgery, resulting in neglect of the care of elderly and handicapped. This group of people are therefore either incarcerated in their homes, suffering illnesses or surviving with thread-bare care from relatives or just fading away into the hands of death, natural or inflicted by the rulers.
Wherever you go in Kashmir, Doda, Poonch or Rajori, you can see troops in camped bunkers, occupying empty houses in the middle of built-up areas, on the road veiling guns with fingers on the trigger, in trucks and jeeps swarming the whole place like a locust storm. This has been the scene for five long years, every day and every single night. The regular army is reinforced by the armed police. The total number are estimated at 600,000 - One soldier to every one household in Kashmir.
The armed police include the paramilitary forces especially trained for operations in Kashmir. They are Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRP), Bihar Reserve Police (BRP), Rajasthan Police Force (RPF), Assam Rifles (AR), Indo Tibetan Border Force (ITBF) and Rashtrya Rifles (RR).
There is a network of the Black cat Force deployed to storm houses. The intelligence departments of India working in Kashmir are the CID, Intelligence Bureau of Indian, and the most dreaded of all is the counter insurgency forces created for Kashmir operating in the midst of the society disguised as Kashmiris.
On 29th October 1995, "an extra 25,000 troops were ready to move into Kashmir if the elections are held" said an Indian official. The dreaded Rashtrya Rifles were deployed in June 1995 to combat the insurgent activity with more force. It is common for Indian forces in Kashmir to ask for more troops each time a crisis is at hand.
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