United Nations chief Antonio Guterres on Monday expressed concern over the death of children in Jammu and Kashmir and urged the Indian government to take preventive measures to protect them. The casualties in the state were mainly caused by torture in detention, shootings, including from pump action guns, and cross-border shelling, he said.

In a report titled Children and Armed Conflict, Guterres said the United Nations had verified over 25,000 grave violations against children in 19 situations globally between January and December last year. More than half of these were committed by non-state actors, and a third by government and international forces, he added.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the global body said that it had verified the killing of eight children and maiming of seven between the age of one and 17. Of these, 13 are boys and two are girls.

These children died by or during joint operations of the Central Reserve Police Force, the Indian Army and the Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other unidentified armed elements, it added. Some died during military shelling across the Line of Control.

The United Nations also verified attacks on nine schools in the state by “unidentified elements”. As many as 68 children between the ages of nine and 17 have been detained by Indian security services in Jammu and Kashmir on national security-related charges, including one for actual or alleged association with armed groups, it added.

“I remain concerned by child casualties in Jammu and Kashmir and call upon the government to take preventive measures to protect children, including by ending the use of pellets against children,” Guterres said. “I am concerned by the detention of children, including their arrest during night raids, internment at army camps, torture in detention and detention without charge or due process, and urge the Government to immediately end this practice.”

The secretary general also took note of the Naxalite insurgency and said that efforts by the Indian government have resulted in a decline in the recruitment, killing and maiming of children. However, children’s access to education and health services continues to be of concern owing to the insurgency, in particular in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, he added.

Guterres reiterated his encouragement to the Indian government to put in place national preventive and accountability measures for all grave violations, as soon as possible.

In 2019, India had expressed strong disappointment over the UN chief’s previous report on Children and Armed Conflict, saying that such an attempt to “expand mandate in a selective manner” to certain situations only politicised the agenda, according to PTI.