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Juvenile Justice mechanism enforced in Kashmir

CHILDLINE 1098 Service » 1098 News » Finally, the Juvenile Justice mechanism enforced in Kashmir by an initiative taken by CHILDINE Srinagar

Juvenile Justice mechanism enforced in Kashmir

Srinagar, J & K: 25 years of conflict in Jammu & Kashmir has led to considerable social problems across the state, particularly in the Kashmir Valley region. The people of the region have been witness to the highest levels of violence and civil unrest since the insurgency erupted in 1989. In the same year, India became a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Subsequently, the Government of India went on to define and create the 'Juvenile Justice Act 2000'. The State Government of Jammu & Kashmir followed in their footsteps to develop the 'Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice Act 1997'.

It has been more than 14 years since the Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice Act 1997 came in to existence. However, voluntary organisations working in Kashmir on the issue of child rights have never used this significant legislation in any case while working with children.

Shockingly enough, the Government Departments of Jammu & Kashmir were unaware of the basic functions of the Juvenile Justice Act of the state. It was when CHILDLINE was administered in Srinagar that the District Administration was approached in the dealings of a juvenile's case and the existence of the JJ Act in Jammu & Kashmirwas brought to their conscious mind.

The first ever CHILDLINE service in Kashmir was made accessible in Srinagar in 2011. Jammu & Kashmir remains the only state in the country to have a separate Juvenile Justice System.

CHILDLINE Srinagar was instituted with the objective of bringing back to life the existing Juvenile Justice System and providing support to neglected juveniles in the state. This journey was not going to be easy for the CHILDLINE team.

Our first achievement was when the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir gave directions to all Government stakeholders in the region to support CHILDLINE's activities in assisting children and better implementing the 1098 service (It is important to mention here that JWB is the only competent authority/statutory body in the state which can deal with cases of juvenile in the need of care and protection as mentioned in Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice Act 1997). The recognition of CHILDLINE as a child protection mechanism in Kashmir was indeed a great achievement!

Nazir returns to his home in West Bengal after the Jammu & Kashmirgovernment used its power under the JJB to help a child in distress

14 year old Nazir hailed from South 24 Parganas, West Bengal. His family was approached by people who claimed to give their son a job at a jewelry shop in Srinagar, bringing in more income for the poor family.

On reaching Srinagar, Nazir was made to work under inhumane conditions as a child labourer. Nazir managed to escape and spent weeks wandering the streets of Srinagar in the frigid cold. Luckily, he was found by CHILDLINE and given immediate care. But the question was what to do next?

Thousands of children have been victim to the same atrocities faced by Nazir in Kashmir. But, Jammu and Kashmir's Juvenile Welfare Board has never used their enforcement authority to help them. In fact, when CHILDLINE approached the Srinagar District Social Welfare Officer, who was a member of the Srinagar Juvenile Welfare Board, he did not even know he had the power to help Nazir.

Thanks to CHILDLINE's timely intervention, the Srinagar Juvenile Welfare Board ordered Nazir to be sent to a government juvenile home in Harwan, Srinagar for an interim period. In a joint effort, the CHILDLINE Srinagar team, the Juvenile Welfare Board of Srinagar, the district social welfare department, and CHILDLINE South 24-Parganas, successfully restored Nazir to West Bengal by air, as all the alternatives routes were non-operational due to the climatic situation.

Accompanied by a coordinator from CHILDLINE Srinagar, Nazir was sent back home.

This initiative was the first of its kind in Kashmir. It brought to the forefront the importance of an emergency child protection service for children in distress.