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144 children held in Jammu and Kashmir after Article 370 move

As many as 144 children, between the ages of 9 and 18 years, were arrested by police in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s Juvenile Justice Committee said in a report to the Supreme Court, although it denied that they were being held illegally. Of those arrested 142 were released.

The report is based on the data the panel received from the state police and Integrated Child Protection Services, J&K (ICPS).

A three-judge bench led by Justice NV Ramana is hearing a petition filed by child-rights activists claiming that minors have been arrested under preventive detention law in Kashmir after August 5, when Parliament passed laws and resolutions to bifurcate J&K into two union territories, scrapped its special status, and also withdrew the special privileges enjoyed by its permanent residents.

SC, during the last hearing asked the HC panel to enquire into the allegations.

The report, a copy of which has been reviewed by HT says minors as young as 9 and 11 years-old were detained for causing minor injuries and creating law and order problem. Children are prone to malicious propaganda without understanding the consequences of indulging in such acts and are being used by vested interests, the panel said, quoting the response of State police.

The union home ministry did not respond to queries from HT.

The report also cited the state police and said many of the allegations regarding the illegal detentions were exaggerated. “It happens often that when minors/juveniles indulge in stone pelting, that they are momentarily held up on the spot and sent home. Some of these incidents are exaggerated beyond proportion,” the committee quoted the police as saying.

According to the data provided by the state police, 144 children aged between 9 and 18 years were arrested between August 5 and September 23. Nine arrests — of children between 13 and 18 years– were preventive in nature, while most of them have been booked for breach of peace. Only two children continue to be in judicial custody and are at present lodged in a juvenile home. The rest have been released, the report said.

“No child has been taken into illegal detention. As and when any report in respect of a juvenile in conflict with law is received, the said juvenile is dealt strictly as per the prescribed law on the subject,” read the report.

Child-rights activist Sushmita Dev criticized the arrests of minors in Srinagar. “If children have been detained that it is nothing short of blasphemous vis-a-vis our Constitution and a nation like Indian known for its civil liberties. This is shameful and these are dark days for India,” she said.

“Wholly irrespective of either Article 370 or politics of any sort, 140 juvenile detentions in a short period of 2 months is alarmingly and unacceptably high. This should be immediately reviewed and the children released wherever possible,” said Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi

Since the copy of the report was provided to the petitioners on Tuesday, the court allowed them to file their counter to the same. Initially it was felt that no reply was required. “A panel of four judges has given this report,” the bench told senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, the petitioners lawyer. But on Ahmadi’s insistence the bench agreed to let the petitioners respond.