NEW DELHI — Police in Kashmir have detained 144 children, including a nine-year-old, since early August when the government revoked the disputed region’s special status and imposed a lockdown, according to a court-appointed committee’s report.
But all those arrested and lodged in police stations were released on the same day, police told the Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s four-member Juvenile Justice Committee, which had been asked by India’s Supreme Court to look into allegations of child detentions after a petition filed by two activists last month.
As of September 25, only two children, both aged 17 years, were lodged in juvenile homes, said the committee’s September 26 report, which was reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has maintained an iron grip on Jammu and Kashmir — India’s only Muslim-majority state, which is also claimed by Pakistan — since August, deploying thousands of troops, restricting movement, and snapping communications.
Local authorities also rounded up thousands, including politicians, leaders of separatist groups, and other civil society members to prevent large protests from erupting over the decision to withdraw Kashmir’s autonomy.
The detention of children spans the whole of the Kashmir valley, from Sopore in the north to the southern district of Shopian, with a large number from the region’s main city of Srinagar, according to the justice committee’s report.
Some children are listed as having been taken under preventive detention, while others have been held for various criminal offences, including disturbing public tranquillity.
Among them is nine-year-old Sahil Ahmad Sheikh from Srinagar’s Batamaloo area, which has seen regular clashes between locals and security forces, who was detained on August 8 and released on the same date, according to police data provided in the report.
Like Sheikh, most of those arrested by police were freed on the same day, except 17 children who spent longer periods, up to 24 days in one instance.