Article: In Kashmir, Indian forces frisking children raises concern

Junaid Kathju

Srinagar, October 22 (KMS): A picture of a girl, showing all her belongings while being frisked by freshly deployed women personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the heart of Srinagar city, created ripples on social media.

Following the civilian killings in the past two weeks, police have intensified frisking of commuters and bikers in Srinagar. However, netizens asked questions about the psychological impact of such frisking exercises on the mental health of people especially on children in the restive region.

The picture of a teenage girl taken by a photo-journalist Imran Nissar with a caption “For first time in 30 years, women frisked at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk” was widely shared by people from all walks of life.

The picture created an online debate about children being exposed to a depressing atmosphere at such a tender age and how it will have an impact on their mental health while growing up.

“Heart wrenching! Exposing angels like this to such structural violence. Imagine what it does to a child’s psychology! God be with all of us! (sic),” senior journalist and author Gowhar Geelani tweeted while sharing the picture.

“Terrible. Can’t even begin to imagine what this child is feeling. Feel so helpless looking at this picture, wonder what she went through. This is not the world we need to create (sic),” Vaishali Sharma, ex-Head Marcom-BBC News and Disney, said.

While many people were highlighting the psychological impact of such actions on a girl of her age, some netizens also raked up the failure of feminism to address the issue.

“This picture is where all of the world’s feminism fails. All of the debate about the “age of consent” fails. All of the debate about rights of a child fails (sic),” Toooba Towfiq, an opinion editor of a local newspaper, tweeted.

The politicians also didn’t waste the opportunity to target the current dispensation at New Delhi for the deteriorating condition in Kashmir.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, while sharing the picture on her twitter handle, blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for taking Kashmir decades back.

“Sums up the current situation in Kashmir where women & even children are suspects now. This is what BJP has brought J&K to. Their policies have taken us back by decades (sic),” Mehbooba tweeted.

Talking with The Kashmir Walla, leading consultant Psychiatrist Dr. Yuman Kawoosa said that living in a conflict zone has different dimensions of trauma and can impact the overall personality of children.

“Frisking is only one part of the trauma that children face day-to-day here. The other aspects of strain comes from the overall atmosphere that we all live in, be it a constant deployment of government forces on the streets, curfews, or internet shutdown,” Kawoosa said.

Kawoosa said apart from anxiety and depression, children can also suffer from affective personality issues that include irritation, anger or being impulsive.

“At times children imitate what they observe in their daily life which can affect their personality while growing up. That is why we see more kids with a rebellious nature and it also reflects in their play as well,” she said.

“Adults can coop up with the situation, but children are the most vulnerable to deal with the stressing atmosphere like in the valley.”

According to the Juvenile Justice Act (JJA) children can be frisked patted down, and searched in a manner which is gentle, decent, and does not violate their dignity, while girl child must be searched by a female staff member only.

Women CRPF deployment

In the wake of killings of civilians in Kashmir, for the first time in the last 30 years, women personnel of CRPF conducted searches in Lal Chowk area of the city.

Women CRPF personnel do the frisking and check the bags of women passing through the Lal Chowk area of the city.

Many women expressed displeasure over the manner of the checking at a public place.

In a video a women can be seen arguing with the CRPF personnel calling them “outsiders” and forcing the native residents like her to show their identification proof.

Talking with The Kashmir Walla, CRPF PRO Abhiram said that the women personnel deployment is a part of security grid and has nothing to do with the recent civilian killing in the valley.

“Women CRPF deployment has been here (Kashmir) in the past one year now. I don’t think there is anything new or unusual about it,” Abhiram said.

Crackdown on bikers

The intense frisking and massive crackdown on the bikers was causing huge inconveniences to the general public.

In the past one week, The Kashmir Walla is receiving many calls from people across the city complaining that the police are seizing their two wheelers despite having all the necessary documents.

Many commuters were seen queuing up outside the police stations across the city to collect their bikes.

Furqan Ahmad, a resident of Rainawari said that his bike was seized at Fateh Kadal despite carrying all the documents along with him.

“The police just stopped me and took away the keys of my bike. Despite showing them all the documents, I was told to comeback after October 25 to collect my bike,” he said.

Another rider Shaik Ismail, who works as a medical representative, said that he was on his way to work when his bike was ceased outside Soura police station “for no apparent reason”.

“I am entirely depended on my bike to do my work. I have to visit many places in a day. And I always carry all the documents while travelling, still my bike was seized,” Shaik said.

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad while expressing his concern over the spate of selected killings in the valley condemned the massive crackdown on bikers in the city.

“This (seizing bikes) will further cause anger among the masses against government. Instead of taking pro-people steps, government is causing huge inconvenience for the general public,” Azad said, while talking with reporters at his Hyderpora residence in Srinagar.

—Courtesy: The Kashmir Walla