kashmir children

 War and conflicts always comes in a severe human cost. Apart from the death and injuries it brings to the body, it has always brought a similar degree of injury to the mind, which sometimes goes un-noticed. Through the years of modern warfare, it has shown to affect the human mind to worse degree than it was imagined. During the First World War, the persons returning home after long deployment showed symptoms of traumatic disorders, named as the “Shell shock”. In a Later period, it was named as battle fatigue. Experts call it as Post-traumatic stress disorder. Even in the non-combatant civilian population who has been caught in prolonged conflict, symptoms of PTSD have been diagnosed to be more frequent than a population living in a peaceful territory.

In Indian sub-continent, the state of Jammu and Kashmir is in state of continuous violence for three decades now. The Kashmiri people had a long standing demand for the right to self-determination of their nation. Though it started right after the departure of the British Colonial forces from the sub-continent, it was mainly peaceful, without any major armed resistance till 1987. After 1987’s infamous election1, the Kashmiris felt utterly betrayed and took up arms against the Indian security forces. Since then, more 70,000 people have been killed and more than 8000 have disappeared in the conflict2. This all nevertheless have shown a great degree of effect on the minds of the Kashmiris as much as these affected their bodies, if not more.

 Trauma and Mental Health in the Vale of Kashmir

Nearly one in each five Kashmiris shows symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder according to a report published in 20153. In the next year, another report was published by IMHANS4, which revealed 11.3%5 of the population of Kashmir suffers from one or the other mental illness, nearly 4% higher than national average. And lack of availability of treatment raises the concern only higher. The same report by IMHANS estimated that only a 6.4% of the people with mental health issues actually avails professional help. The effect of living under undeclared military rule on the psyche of a Kashmiri was quite evident in a study conducted by MSF6 between 1989 and 20057. According to the report, one in ten people have reported to lose one or more family member in the conflict. 33.9% of the people had suicidal tendency due to lack of happiness. Since the conflict has begun there was a 33% increase in the prevalence of mental illnesses. Reports have shown the number of women with mental health condition is more than the number of men. The statistics accounting the situation of mental health among the children are not available in recent times. According to latest available report published in 20068, co-authored by Mushtaq Margoob, 100 children were found in the age group of three to sixteen who was suffering from PTSD during their sample survey. The report further states that 15% among them witnessed torture, while 4% were tortured. Above all there is only one mental health facility in Kashmir serving 8 million of population, which makes the situation much worse.

The making of the Trauma

Through the period of conflict, Kashmiri has faced innumerable violations in the hands of the security forces. People from every age group has been subjected to arbitrary arrests under Public safety act, which allows the government to detain any civilian whom they suspect to be a cause of concern for “law and order” in the state, for up to two years without trial As we mentioned earlier, Kashmir valley saw around 70000 violent deaths through the years of conflict. There are allegations that more than 100009 rapes have been committed in order to subdue the rebellion. Forced disappearances have also been a common thing. A number of people has been killed and buried in unmarked mass graves. Till now, around 700010 mass graves have been discovered. Apart from this continuous check post, cordoning, combing, searches are taking the peoples mind into a state of permanent alertness, which have a severe effect on the psychology of the population. Years of subjugation, feeling of cultural subversion and continuous threat on their existence are further aggravating the situation.

The one year of Kashmir Lockdown is worsening the already grim picture

Last one year since the abrogation of the limited autonomy11, Kashmir is witnessing one of the longest lockdown of an entire population in the history of democracies. The people were desperate to contact their friends, family and loved ones, though they were denied of that. I remember meeting one Kashmiri Student from Pulwama, who was in Kolkata for his studies. He mentioned, “I am waiting for 23 days to hear from my family. Can you imagine this happening in your place?”.  This statement was not a statement of only one individual, rather it reverberated the sentiment of the whole nation. Though any concrete report on the state’s health condition was not came to the light, as heavy restriction and complete high-speed internet shut down is still in place, it is not hard to guess how the minds of the people are grappling with a sense of loss. In last one year, the numbers of detention under PSA have increased many folds. One report showed around 13000 people to be in custody including minors. The unavailability of internet has put the state of the health system in the state at jeopardy. These all are increasing the toll on the minds of the people. Social insecurity along with huge losses in businesses has taken many into a state of depression. However, until the restrictions are further revoked it is difficult to quantify the psychological damage people are facing right now.

Will the ordeal end?

With 700000 members12 of Indian security forces deployed, Kashmir is the world’s most densely militarized zone. As we know, the high degree of militarization and the state of mental health doesn’t fare well together. The only way of the betterment is to resolve the burning issue of self-determination of Kashmir. Only that can put an end to the series of violence which has been inflicted upon the population. Nearly half of the population is suffering from chronic depression directly caused by the present socio-political situation. During an election in 2017, one person named Farooq Ahmed Dar13 was picked up by an army unit, was tied to the bonnet of the army’s jeep, for alleged use as human shield. These kind of dehumanizing incidents definitely have adverse effects on the mind of the people, and sadly, these kind of instances are not rare. But, the peaceful solution of the Kashmir issue is way off the radar right now. The resentment among the people has increased manifolds since the limited autonomy was revoked. And the hard-line Hindu nationalist government of Delhi doesn’t seem to be interested in any peaceful solution. With immediate resolution of the conflict is beyond horizon, only thing the civil society can immediately demand that to increase the mental health facilities in the valley, and to revoke the current restrictions and internet black-out, at least this will give a chance to tend the wounded.

Citations:

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  3. https://www.msfindia.in/msf-scientific-survey-45-kashmiri-population-experiencing-mental-distress/
  4. http://risingkashmir.in/news/imhans-playing-active-role-in-counselling-people-on-mental-health-amid-covid-19-360584.html
  5. https://www.actionaidindia.org/publications/mental-health-illness-in-the-valley/
  6. https://www.msfindia.in/
  7. https://ru.msf.org/sites/russia/files/migrated/KASHMIR_FINAL_VERSION,_221106.pdf

8.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/285684137_
Paediatric_PTSD_Clinical_presentation_traumatic_events_
and_socio-demographic_variables_-_Experience_from_a_chronic_
conflict_situation

  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24479218?seq=1
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  Arka Deep is a political activist


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