A little after midnight on 6 August, the Jammu and Kashmir Police raided the house of a 17-year-old youth in the Batamaloo area of Srinagar. His mother told me that the police laid a cordon around the house “as if they had to arrest a wanted militant.” The teenager, who is a seventh-standard dropout, recounted that it was around 1.30 am and the “policeman had covered their faces.” He said that he “was in deep sleep and one of the cops yelled at me and woke me up.” The police personnel “kicked and punched” the disoriented teenager and bundled him into a police vehicle. Three days later, the police picked up another 17-year-old boy, who lives in the Bazar area of Batamaloo, in a similar midnight raid.
Both these teenagers are among the scores of minors who were picked up from their homes after 5 August when the centre read down Article 370 of the Constitution to abrogate Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, and downgraded it from a state to a union territory. While the central government has consistently claimed that the situation is peaceful in the erstwhile state, thousands of people including pro-India politicians and separatists have been detained or arrested in the land-locked Kashmir Valley, according to media reports.
The media coverage also brought to light several instances where minors were detained by the police, kept in police lock-ups for extended periods, and subjected to abuse and torture while in custody. While the police denied all charges of illegal detention of minors, the police action has been in clear violation of the Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2013 which mandates that if a minor is arrested, they have to be produced before the state’s juvenile court within 24 hours. The court decides whether they are to be transferred to juvenile homes, and the act categorically states that minors cannot be housed in police stations.