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Psychosocial Implications Of Armed Struggle In Kashmir

By Sheikh Umar Ahmad

07 March, 2016

India and Pakistan have disputed ownership of the Kashmir Valley region for many years, resulting in high levels of exposure to violence among the larger populace of Kashmir. The Partition of India in 1947 was the start of a long history of dispute between India and Pakistan for control of Kashmir, which today remains divided into three parts governed by India, Pakistan and China.

The war between two nations has damaged the very fabric of the society, not only its physical structure but also disrupted its entire social tissue, its environment and the normal routine of life for which people account several reasons. Kashmir has been witnessing a chronic socio-political unrest for the last 2½ decades now. The conflict has had an enormous impact on different aspects of Kashmir’s society. Indeed, there has been a colossal damage to the property and infrastructure, however, its impact can be felt nowhere more than on the mental health of the people of Kashmir.

Deliberating upon the human suffering, the conflict has not only left thousands dead and orphaned, unleashed and unmitigated violence on women and children, but the alarming increase in the psychiatric morbidity in general, is among the worst possible forms of suffering. A household survey done in some frontier areas of North Kashmir by Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada and Department of Clinical Psychology, Utrecht University Netherlands in 2008 published a report in “CONFLICT AND HEALTH JOURNAL” found that The high levels of violence confronted by the Kashmiri population have resulted in high prevalence ( nearly about 33%) of mental health problems. In another report published in 2013, they stated that Poor self-rated health and likelihood of poor socio-economic functioning were associated with high levels of psychological distress. For the last two decades, Kashmir Valley has been the scene of conflict between Government forces and Mujahideens of Islamic belief, Bomb attacks, shoot-outs, pressure from both sides have affected the daily lives of ordinary Kashmiris.

Human rights abuses from government forces are reported in the form of arrests, extra-judicial killings, house to house searches, abductions and torture. Violent incidents could happen everywhere at any time and the risk of getting caught in the crossfire is always present.

The ongoing violence, the constant threat and poor future perspective put a heavy strain on the natural coping mechanisms of the people in Kashmir. A lot of people suffer from stress (normal or related to traumatic event), high amount of psychosocial problems (substance abuse, distrust) are registered and disorders like anxiety, mood and post-traumatic disorders are mounting. Most of the mental pain is presented as physical (somatization). Mental health experts in the state’s summer capital, Srinagar, said that there has been a staggering increase in the number of stress and trauma related cases in the Kashmir valley and these psychological problems have also given rise to general health problems like diabetes, cardiac problems and hypertension (The News August 18, 2005). Medecins San Frontiers (MSF), one of only two foreign aid agencies in Srinagar, is focused on managing this overwhelming problem. According to MSF representative Paul van Haperen, There is barely a family that has not been affected. There’s been a tenfold rise in the past decade in the number of cases of trauma (Izzat Jarundi, 2002).

Considering the daily traumas these people endure. it is not surprising that the state of Jammu and Kashmir, where the rebellion is raging, has one of the highest rates of suicide in India (Agence France Presse, April 8, 2001). Mental disorders in both men and women have shown an alarming increase when compared to pre-conflict days in 1989. Days before, there has been a picture revolving on social networking sites (attached) in which some children somewhere were playing with each other. They were searching arm’s and ammunition among themselves, a trend that has followed by Indian Army since 1989 in occupied Kashmir. This image speaks all about the Psychosocial implications of armed conflict in Kashmiri population, that has crept over ages evolutionarily and has changed the mindset of growing buds to enjoy out of this pain & conflict.

Author is Working at CSIR IIIM Jammu



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