By YKA Staff:
The mainstream narrative on Kashmir has for long largely focused on the issues of militancy, Islamic radicalism, and belligerent northern neighbours, one in particular. What often slips through the cracks are stories of those who get caught in the crossfire.
One such story is that of a boy named Irshad Ashraf, a boy in Class VIII at the time of his death. “He was too young,” says his mother, interviewed at an undisclosed location in south Kashmir, barely able to control her sobs long after her son’s death, as pictures of an innocent young child are held up to the camera. “People always complain that parents don’t keep a strict vigil on their kids… We were good parents. He was only in eight class,” she adds.
Death, horrifying as it is, however, pales in comparison with the fate of those who are spared its mercy. The Public Safety Act (PSA), 1978, a draconian law like the AFSPA, has been misused time and again in Kashmir. If Amnesty International is to be believed, estimates for detention under this “lawless law” range from 8,000 to 20,000. It has been admitted by government officials themselves that there have only been a couple of hundred militants in the entire state after 2008. One might well ask who those people are that continue to be detained, often on flimsy grounds, under the PSA.
The intent here is not to unfairly demonise the Indian state. It is a democratic country and can largely be expected to retain its character. Nor is the intent to condone violence by Kashmiri militants. But there are things we rarely get to see on the 9 O’clock news.
Consider these statements: “Anyone who sees that room will think it is an operation theatre”; “they burn you in places where it is unbearable”. One might be forgiven if they conjure up images of torture chambers in Nazi Germany. However, these are statements by a Kashmiri youth, a torture survivor, a fellow Indian, a young boy who was detained under the PSA. There are many more such stories, of children not much older than him or Irshad Ashraf, sometimes younger, being detained under the Act. And let your outrage not be lost in debating the semantics of the words ‘child’, ‘adolescent’ etc.
The interviews conducted in this video, of families of the dead, of a psychiatrist, a lawyer specialising in PSA cases, and victims themselves, offer a glimpse of the untold story of Kashmir. These are our children whose lives we’re ruining by our silence.