Need for a separate police wing to deal with Juvenile cases in J&K: Advocate Mir Urfi

Advocate Mir Urfi ( Photo: Auqib Javeed/

What are many Indian teengaer’s biggest concerns when they are 15 years old? Homework? Upcoming exams? Family pressures? No We do not need an expert to tell us that teenagers are subject to extreme social pressures. Now, imagine all these issues and place it in the context of a conflict that has been raging in your region for as long as you can remember; for as long as your parents can remember.

No one has an easy life in Kashmir, but can we even begin to imagine the kind of pressure, anger, disbelief, frustration and general helplessness that a school student in Kashmir undergoes? A student in a town like Shopian, for example, might consider himself lucky just to be alive: they have seen their friends being shot, injured, and arrested. As a Kashmiri teenager, what do you do? Not protest against the occupation? That might still get you caught in a crossfire. Keep quiet and focus on your studies? How do you do that when there is an encounter happening right next to your house? Or when tear gas shells land inside your house?

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In December, two teenagers–Saqib Majeed and Mudassir Paray–became another statistic in Kashmir. They were killed in an encounter with security forces and Indian media barely noticed the fact that the two ‘militants’ were 17 and 14 years old It made no difference. What forces a 15-year-old to pick up a gun? What forces a 12-year-old to pick a stone to hurl at security forces? What makes a 17-year-old believe that death at the hands of Indian forces is a better option that living a ‘normal’ life?

In this 6-part series,’s Kashmir correspondent Auqib Javeed looks at all the aspects of being a teenager in Kashmir: a militant, a protester, a mere bystander and a victim. If you pick a gun, you will be labelled a militant and shot; if you pick a stone, you will be labelled ‘anti-India’ and arrested and put in juvenile homes. If you are lucky, you will only be beaten up a little; if you are not, you will end up with bruises that will never leave you. And if you do neither, you still stand a very high chance of ending up being arrested or killed.

Part I: They killed my son for standing outside his house

Part II: Encounter of Saqib and Mudassir

Part III: My son, 14, was forced to pick up the gun

Part IV: Every time we see policemen, our blood boils

In the fifth of the six-part series, we speak with Advocate Mir Urfi to understand how Juvenile justice has been systematically ignored in the state and how it has further alienated teenagers of the Valley. A seasoned lawyer, Urfi joined the legal profession in 2003 at Jammu and Kashmir High Court and has fought a number of cases related to Juveniles in the valley. She paints a bleak picture and future of Juvenile justice in the state unless political conditions change.

Here are the excerpts:

 Tell us about the history of Juveniles cases in Kashmir.

 After the uprising in the wake of Burhan Wani’s encounter in 2016, the actual functioning of the Juvenile system became more prominent in Public discourse. One reason for this was that a large number of cases involving Juveniles came to be registered as there were protests all over the Valley on large scale. Previously also, during the mass uprising of 2008 and 2010, a number of cases involving Juveniles relating to street protests came to be registered in various Police Stations.

 However, that time the number was not that high primarily for the reason that up to 2013 children below the age of 16 years were treated as Juveniles, which post 2013 amendment was raised to 18 years. After more and more Juvenile cases came to be registered, the functioning of Juvenile justice system became more and more active. Juvenile homes were established in 2013; Juvenile justice board was established in each district in 2018.

 What are the things that people outside Kashmir need to know about Juvenile justice in the state?

 Juvenile Justice Act is sufficient to deal with the person in conflict with the law. But those so-called offenders which mostly form the Juvenile cases in the valley are the result of street protests and the root cause of the same is the dispute which they have inherited from one generation to the other.

 The problem does not lie with the Juvenile justice system but continued non-settlement of the basic issue which the State of J&K has been facing since 1947.

How are Juveniles being treated in Kashmir?

 In textbooks, he may be Juvenile, but in reality once he gets implicated in a case he is believed to be criminal by the concerned police agency and he is treated as criminal by the system.

  How does the Public Safety Act (PSA) work in or against the case of a Juvenile?

 There is no concept of Juvenile in Preventive Detention field as laid down by the Public Safety Act itself. A person who is under the age of 18 Years cannot be detained under PSA provided he is not a foreigner. Hence, Juveniles cannot be detained under PSA.

 But in reality, it is the police which is the final authority in deciding the age of a person while recommending his detention under PSA. There is no mechanism in place for the detaining authority to verify or determine the age of the person against whom he passes detention order. This is because the person against whom the detaining authority passes order is never produced before the authority for examination before passing the detention order.

 The detaining authority relies on the material provided by police so wherever the police is interested in detaining a person under PSA they project him as an adult even though he maybe a minor.

 What is your legal experience in working with Juveniles in Kashmir?

 As far as the Juveniles in Kashmir are concerned, most of the cases relate to street protests and alleged stone pelting. There are very few cases involving Juveniles involving other crimes like theft, robbery, murder etc. I will share my experience of dealing with Juveniles, many times when I asked these kids why they are protesting, their views are very clear: they are well aware of the Kashmir issue and the betrayal on the part of India. They know everything about the resolutions of UN on J&K issue.

 Does the mistreatment of the Juvenile have a negative impact on their psyche and attitude?

 The establishment of a Juvenile Justice System system separate from normal criminal Justice system is based on the consideration that a Juvenile should not undergo the same treatment as under the normal criminal justice system. The mistreatment of his parents when they visit him in the police station and restrictions like not being able to go outside state or country has an adverse impact on their psyche. Their life cycle changes as they have to mark their presence in police stations whenever any VIP has to visit Kashmir and on days like 26 January and 15 August.

 Do you think that this can be one of the reasons for “minor militancy?”

 Well, prudence demands that it should not be ruled out.

 Do you think they get proper counselling in Juvenile homes?

They are not thieves and drug addicts who need counselling. They are there for a ‘cause’ and due to the current movement. The state has to understand that there is an issue since last three decades and that need to be addressed.

 What can be done to improve Juvenile justice in Kashmir?

Since almost all Juvenile cases in Kashmir arise out of the incidents of street protests, Juvenile Justice System cannot address the same unless the root cause i.e the political issue is addressed. This is not just my observation; history stands testimony to that. As far as the prevailing Juvenile Justice system is concerned, it has improved to a large extent, however, a lot is to be done yet.

What I will suggest is that like the Judicial System there must be a separate Police wing meant for dealing with the cases involving Juveniles otherwise the very object of the Juvenile Justice System will be far from realisation.