Indian authorities arrested an estimated “13,000 boys” in Jammu and Kashmir since Aug. 5, according to a fact-finding report by a team of five women who visited the region recently.
“Shops closed, hotels closed, schools, colleges, institutes and universities closed, streets deserted was the first visual impact as we drove out from the airport,” said the report, titled “Women’s Voice: Fact Finding Report on Kashmir.”
“To us, it seemed a punitive mahaul [environment] that blocked free breathing” the report noted on Tuesday.
Kashmiris are waiting for the world to understand the humanitarian costs of the lockdown since Aug. 5, Syeda Hameed from Muslim Women’s Forum told Anadolu Agency over the phone after the release of the report.
Hameed is one of the five women activists from several local NGOs who visited Jammu and Kashmir on Sept. 17-21 and prepared the report after meeting people in Bandipora, Shopian and Pulwama districts.
“We wanted to see with our own eyes how this 43-day lockdown [until Sept.17] had affected the people, particularly women and children,” read the report.
Jammu and Kashmir has been under a near-complete lockdown since the Indian government’s move on Aug. 5 to scrap the special status of the region.
“This report is our chashmdeed gawahi [eye witness account] of ordinary people who have lived for 43 days under an iron siege,” the report said.
Hameed told Anadolu Agency that people of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir are waiting for Friday when UN General Assembly (UNGA) session listens to prime ministers of India and Pakistan.
“People are waiting for world opinion [to build] pressure [on India],” she added.
The report claimed that boys as young as 14 or 15 are taken away by the authorities and allegedly tortured.
“One estimate given to us was 13,000 boys were lifted during this crackdown,” the report said about the alleged detentions by Indian forces to disallow any protests.
“Army pounces on young boys; it seems they hate their very sight. When fathers go to rescue their children, they are made to deposit money, anywhere between 20,000 Indian rupees [$281] to 60,000 Indian rupees [$845],” read the report.
Negating claims of Indian government that Aug. 5 move was for development of Kashmir, Hameed, who has been a member of India’s now defunct planning commission, said: “Human development indicators of Kashmir are very high when compared to any other part of India. This [government’s] argument makes no sense.”
Responding to a question about Indian government’s claim that removing special provisions granted Jammu and Kashmir the ability to fight separatism in the region, Hameed said: “Even those politicians who stood for India have been arrested.”
The report said that doctors are facing problems to examine patients because of the hurdles imposed by the government.
An orthopedic doctor was stopped by Indian army while on way to his duties, and held for seven days, it added.
“It is a big human tragedy,” Hameed said.
The women’s activists said women in Kashmir, especially those from Sikh community, denied that they face any sexual harassment at the hands of Kashmiri men.
“It was an important conversation with women in Kashmir. They told us that incidents in India, like sexual harassment, does not happen in Kashmir,” Hameed added.
The group demanded that for normalcy to restore in the region, the Indian government should immediately withdraw army and paramilitary forces.
They added that cases filed against people including First Information Reports should be withdrawn and allegations of torture by Indian army should be investigated.
It demanded an immediate lifting of the communications blackout and restoration of special provisions back to their status before Aug. 5.
Since then, the Indian government has blocked communication access and imposed restrictions on movement to thwart any protests in the region.
Several rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have repeatedly called on India to lift restrictions and release political detainees.
India said that 93% of the restrictions have been eased in the conflict-ridden region, a claim that Anadolu Agency could not independently verify.
India and Pakistan hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.
Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.