Indian government admitted Tuesday (Oct. 1) in the Supreme Court that 144 minors, including children as young as 9 and 11 years old, have been detained in the Indian-administered Kashmir since August 5, when the disputed territory was annexed.
However, the government claimed that the arrest of minors was not illegal.
On September 20, the Supreme Court had directed the Juvenile Justice Committee to file a report on the alleged detention of children.
It was responding to a petition filed by child rights activists Enakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha, seeking a probe on the detention of minors since August 5.
The petition had cited a number of media reports, including those by Scroll.in, The Washington Post, Caravan, Quint and TRT World.
The director general of police "categorically denied the specific allegations made in the writ petition", the juvenile justice committee noted. The committee submitted its report to a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court on October 1.
With normal life remained affected in the Indian administered Kashmir for the 59th consecutive day on Wednesday, the Huffington Post India reported that thousands of Kashmiris politicians, separatists, lawyers, young men, and minors have been arrested since August 5.
Quoting media reports, the Post said the number of arrests and detentions vary from 4,000 to 13,000.
"The Modi government has refused to say how many people have been jailed, where they have been lodged, and the reasons for their detention. Yet many of these detentions, interviews with Srinagar-based lawyers establish, are in violation of Jammu and Kashmir's famously draconian laws of arrest and detention," the paper said.
Tellingly, the J&K Public Safety Act (PSA) allows the authorities to detain a person before a crime is committed and hold them without trial for up to one year in cases of public order and two years in cases of national security. However, it does require officials to provide reasons for their detaining someone, furnish the detenu and his family members with the grounds for detentions, and give the detenu an opportunity to challenge his detention.
Betwa Sharma of the Huffington Post provided graphic account of the detention of Kashmiris without any recourse to law.
Lawyers in Kashmir say Indian authorities have been detaining people under grounds that are vague to the point of absurdity.
Manzoor Ahmed, a senior lawyer and an executive member of the J&K Bar Association, said that at least 300 habeas corpus petitions have been filed since 5 August as desperate family members try to track down their imprisoned relatives.
The Indian Express has reported that the two benches of J&K High Court, Srinagar and Jammu, which should have 17 judges, is operating with only nine at present and only two judges in the Srinagar bench are hearing these habeas corpus petitions.
But government lawyers are simply refusing to respond to court notices. "Since 5 August, no reply has been filed in any habeas corpus petition. The situation is more than hellish," said Ahmed, the lawyer. "The judges are telling government lawyers to respond to habeas corpus petitions but the might of the state prevails."