By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai on Saturday urged the world leaders who are going to attend the upcoming United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York to “help children go safely back to school” in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir .
“I am deeply concerned about reports of 4,000 people, including children, arbitrarily arrested & jailed, about students who haven’t been able to attend school for more than 40 days, about girls who are afraid to leave their homes," the child rights activist said in a series of tweets.
“I am asking leaders, at UNGA and beyond, to work towards peace in Kashmir, listen to Kashmiri voices and help children go safely back to school," she added.
Expressing concern over the worsening situation in Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir, following New Delhi's decision withdrawing special status granted to the region last month, Yousafzai narrated stories of three Kashmiri girls she spoke with in the last week.
To narrate the girls’ ordeals, she chose the same method she once had adopted to depict the status of girls’ education during Pakistani Taliban era in scenic Swat valley in 2009 using pen name “ Gul Makai” or cornflower.
“Here is what three girls told me, in their own words: 'The best way to describe the situation in Kashmir right now is absolute silence. We have no way of finding out what’s happening to us. All we could hear is the steps of troops outside our windows. It was really scary.'
"'I feel purposeless and depressed because I can’t go to school. I missed my exams on August 12 and I feel my future is insecure now. I want to be a writer and grow to be an independent, successful Kashmiri woman. But it seems to be getting more difficult as this continues',” she quoted one of the girls as saying without disclosing her identity.
Another girl told Yousafzai: "People speaking out for us adds to our hope. I am longing for the day when Kashmir will be free of the misery we’ve been going through for decades.”
Already soured relations between the two South Asian nuclear rivals, have further plummeted after India scrapped the special provisions to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The state has been under a near-complete lockdown since Aug. 5.
Several rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have repeatedly called on India to lift restrictions and release political detainees.
From 1954 until Aug. 5, 2019, Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed special status under the Indian constitution, which allowed it to enact its own laws.
The provisions also protected the region's citizenship law, which barred outsiders from settling in and owning land in the territory.
India and Pakistan both hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.