Srinagar, May 8: A study by UK-based child rights organization, Save the Children, has revealed that estimated population of orphans in Jammu and Kashmir is 2,14,000 and 37 percent of them were orphaned due to the armed conflict.
The report titled "Orphaned in Kashmir- The State of Orphans in Jammu and Kashmir" says that the study conducted in six districts of the state reveals that 37 per cent of the orphans lost one or both parents due to the conflict while 55 percent were orphaned due to the natural death of parents and remaining eight percent due to other reasons.
The six sample districts for the study were chosen by the child rights group after consultation with state government. Among them, Islamabad (Anantnag), Kupwara and Baramulla represent high-intensity conflict districts, Poonch and Rajouri represent medium intensity conflict districts and newly created Ganderbal district represents a low intensity conflict district, the study says.
According to the 61-page report, the proportion of children orphaned due to conflict is highest in Islamabad (Anantnag) district of south Kashmir. "The largest number of children orphaned due to conflict were in Islamabad (Anantnag) (56 percent), followed by Ganderbal (48 percent), Baramulla (33 percent) and Rajouri (31 percent)," the report says, adding that number of orphans is higher in Valley than Jammu due to the conflict.
The study reveals that five percent of the orphans were either physically abused or intimidated, such as having guns pointed at them, threatened by armed actors, accused of providing support to the fighting sides, physically assaulted and hurt, used as bait to capture their parents or as human shields during the conflict.
"Among the orphans attending schools, a large number said that the main distraction in school was that they had worries about their families (28 per cent), noise of explosions during conflict (19 percent) and intimidating presence of troops (13 per cent)," the report adds.
According to the survey, one-third of the orphans had faced emotional stress during the conflict.
"While 38 per cent felt despair and skepticism about the future, 32 per cent said that their anxiety was triggered by sudden loud noises or seeing battle uniforms," it says.
The child rights group has made number of recommendations for overall betterment of orphans in the state like formulation of child protection policy, setting up of child protection committees.
"A child protection policy should be designed for the state and operationalized, which also ensures the rights of orphans, with adequate funds and personnel allotted to it," the report recommends, adding, "Child Protection Committee and children's groups should be set up through NGOs at the village and urban ward levels with their members sensitized about the rights of orphans and their educational, psycho-social and health problems."