Kashmir’s Stolen Children: Need A Vigorous Response

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While the focus of Kashmir’s society is on the persons who have disappeared during the onset of militancy, an insidious trend is developing right in the entrails of our society: many of our children are disappearing under our eyes. According to latest data furnished by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 1897 children in J&K went missing in last five years and at an average one child went missing per day from last three years.
1895 missing children in five years is a staggering number that should not only concentrate our minds but also raise alarm. If the number of missing children is divided by the number of years, the results yield that around 350 children disappear per year. Where they go or disappear is not known? What is clear and obvious from the whole saga is that our children are disappearing but there is neither alarm nor any vigorous action taken to prevent their disappearance by the authorities.
There are a number of reasons why a child can disappear. These include: abduction, kidnapping, ransom or at times, the unstable orientation of a child. But if the number of children who have disappeared from Kashmir is disaggregated, 1897 children cannot all be mentally unstable; neither have we heard of explicit ransom demands or kidnappers demands. A discernible pattern emerges here and this  opens space for an inference: children are being kidnapped or abducted by either gangs or racketeering networks of people who operate on a Pan Indian level (may at times international too) for reasons as diverse as selling them in the adoption markets, forcing them into begging or prostitution or in unorganized labor markets.
The nature of our society and even the character of our people make our children vulnerable to kidnapping and abduction. We, in the final analysis, are a trusting society and we are not fully or adequately aware of crime, criminality and criminal behavior given that crime is not very prevalent in our society. This, overlain by our trusting behavior renders us too trustful. Of course, this is a generalization but by and large holds true for Kashmiris. The result is projection of this trust onto our children. By its very nature, child hood is more or less innocence personified. The overall trusting nature of our society plus the innocence of our children renders our children vulnerable to criminal elements or psychopathic crime.
This is, insofar as the general assessment of our condition is concerned. The major question, however, is why no alarm or action towards this evil and insidious development? The answer is manifold: we, as a society, are focused and pre-occupied with other stuff- our politics and perhaps even economics predominates our thinking. Our self absorption leaves little space for issues like the child disappearance and if we come to know of an incident of a child having disappeared, we do not think that this can happen to our own child.
If we as a society are self absorbed, this does not recuse and exonerate the government of its duties towards society and children. If a clear cut pattern of child disappearance has manifested itself over the years, why have not the authorities adopted a more alert posture? Why is the government acting like a mute spectator to this insidious trend? Why has not a general alert been sounded? Why have not people been educated about the trend and the threat it poses? Why have not parents and schools been sounded out? Why have networks and the gangs involved in the nefarious and evil activity not been exposed and caught?
The condition that emerges from this scenario is that both society and the state are implicated in it.  The media as a stakeholder cannot be exonerated here. It must play its part and highlight vigorously this issue.We, as a society, do not appear to take into cognizance the safety and security of our children; our default trust setting, so to speak precludes us from doing so. But, at the same time, the authorities do not appear to have taken a serious view and note of this issue. This constitutes an omission which creates space for criminal and other assorted operators to operate. The question now is: what can be done to both pre-empt and stem this trend?
A vigorous response is called for here. Both society and the state should take a serious view of this insidious trend and be on the same page regarding the disappearance of our children. The social response calls for alertness on part of families and parents and educating or making aware their children about strangers, kidnappings and abduction. The response from the state is equally important. The state should activate its various apparatii and take focused and dedicated measures to pre-empt and prevent crimes against children. These could include identifying the culprits, penetrating their networks and going to the source of these. Once the source and centre of gravity of these networks are identified, these should be broken and the culprits not only exposed in public but also meted out severe punishment.
Many of our children have disappeared. We owe it to them and their families to find them and restore them to the families. But we also need to pre-empt and prevent the incidence of crimes against our children. This calls for a concerted response between state and society in a way that defeats the designs of perpetrators of crimes against children. The time for this is now!

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