Police in Indian 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.
The Committee 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 Sept. 25, only two children, both aged 17 years, were lodged in juvenile homes, said the committee’s Sept. 26 report, which was reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday.
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.
In a letter to the committee that was included in the report, Kashmir’s police chief said that the charges of illegal child detentions had no merit, but children found to be in violation of the law were being “strictly dealt” with.
Children had been lured into violent acts by “being used as a shield by some vested interests,” police said, and some were involved in stone-pelting, rioting and causing damage to public and private property, as per their investigation.
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.