Outside their home a group of paramilitary soldiers is sitting on the cover of a drain and some have laid their back against the wall of a room were Abir and Taha Sultan are glued to a television screen watching Cartoon Network. They are hardly bothered by the forces chattering nonchalantly and breaking in occasional laughter outside Their helmets can be seen through a net covering the window of their room.
For sixty days the siblings, Abir, 9 and Taha, 7, have been confined to this room due to the current uprising in Kashmir that had left seventy-five people dead and thousands injured. China made toys and drawing books are scattered around. These siblings, like the lakhs of children across the valley, have been confined to their house throughout the unrest. The streets outside are deserted and full of men in Khaki.
For all these days both the siblings have been waiting for Eid al-Adha, celebrated across the globe by Muslims, when they would take a stroll down the bazaar with their parents and visit a nearby Mughal garden.
“We want to see Nishat garden on Eid,” Abir says. “We have been watching TV for a long time and can’t go outside”.
But that visit to the Mughal garden might not be possible now.
There is no let up even in the run-up to the Eid al-Adha or after. The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), a conglomerate of different Hurriyat factions have asked people to march towards Eidgahs followed by a march towards UNMOGIP office for the first time in 26 years of conflict on the day of Eid.
So there will be no Eid celebrations in Kashmir this year and the state government is likely to impose a strict curfew across the valley fearing widespread violence, as separatists groups have refused to give a relaxation on the day.
“One and all for Azadi march towards Central Eidgahs at District Tehsil and Town level and afterwards march towards UNO Office for submitting a memorandum to be conveyed to 71st Session of General Assembly of United Nations starting on 13 September,” a statement issued by the group, said.
"Before Namaz, the Imams and Khateebs will read 'let us pledge' message to continue our struggle for freedom and for boycotting all pro-occupation parties and leaders, elections, election rallies and election machinery. Everyone shall take a pledge," said the JRL spokesman.
The state government is likely to impose a strict curfew to try to thwart any march on that day. In 2010, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led an unscheduled march to Lal Chowk where massive violence ensued in which protestors torched the crime branch headquarters and Power Development Department. The violence and the sheer number of people thronging the city centre had unnerved a beleaguered state government led by Omar Abdullah at that time.
Children have been most affected by the current unrest in the valley with most of them stacked inside the four walls of their houses. Schools are shut, markets are close, and Khaniyar locality in the old town of the Srinagar is among the worst affected areas, where venturing out of the house could be an invitation to trouble.
“I can’t take them out even for a minute as the threat of clashes between police and protesters remains throughout the day. No one wants to see their children injured and they remain locked inside throughout the day watching TV,” Monisa, the mother of Abir, says.
“They were hoping to get out of the house on Eid but that is unlikely to happen now,” Monisa, who teaches in a government school, adds.
Kashmir has been under a lockdown for the last sixty days and the violence continues unabated. A 20-year-old youth became the latest victim of pellets in Anantnag, in south Kashmir, on Tuesday morning and 100 people were injured in clashes. Four people were injured in clashes on Wednesday between protesters and security forces in the same district as restrictions on the assembly of people continued throughout the Valley.
“Children,” says Kashmir's leading psychiatrist, Dr Mushtaq Margoob, “have borne the brunt of, not just the violence, but also being confined to the houses which translate to physiological trauma.
“The number of children visiting the hospital with psychiatrist related issues has increased many folds in the last one month,” he adds.
First Published On : Sep 7, 2016 15:17 IST