RealNews

Orphanages Proliferate in Carnage of Kashmir

Swirling scarves through the air, the juggler draws a laugh from the 5-year-old boy, who is wrapped in a blanket in a drafty red-brick orphanage on a Kashmir mountaintop. “It is so freaky how he makes colorful circles with those strips of cloth,” a beaming Aijaz Ahmad Rather said. Aijaz has rarely smiled since his father, a separatist militant, was killed in a gun battle with Indian security forces three years ago. Left destitute, his mother couldn’t care for him and so sent him to the Garden Palace orphanage. Thirteen years of violence in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only state with a Muslim majority, have taken a toll on the Himalayan region’s families. Some 80,000 children have been orphaned or abandoned, the Jammu and Kashmir Orphans Trust estimated after a survey last year. Most of the children, ages 3 to 15, have lost parents in cross-fires, land-mine explosions and gun battles during the insurgency by separatist Muslim rebels, who have fought since 1989 for Kashmir’s independence or merger with Islamic Pakistan. Before the rebellion, Kashmir had one orphanage, the Garden Palace, where Aijaz is the youngest of 52 residents. Now there are more than a dozen, and five more are being built. Full Story

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