With 100 Days Of Unrest, How Mental Distress Among Kashmiris Is On The Rise

Posted on October 27, 2016 in Mental Health, Politics

By Gaurav Mehta:

Hope and faith in peace have plummeted in the valley more than 100 days after the protests began in Kashmir. The valley, explicitly described as the ‘paradise’ on earth, is now raging with war. Blood-daubed roads are in stark contrast to the surreal mountains covered with snow. According to Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/ Doctors without borders, nearly 1.8 million adults, covering 45% of the valley’s population show symptoms of significant mental distress. This doesn’t appal me at all. For a state that is strife-ridden for the last seven decades, for the people who are incessantly witnessing massacres since childhood, depression and anxiety have become a reality in their daily life. Moreover, this survey was conducted between October and December 2015, and doesn’t include the recent pandemonium, stirred up after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani on July 9, 2016. Hence, it shouldn’t surprise us if the figures of the people with mental distress increases.

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which gives the armed forces enormous powers was applied to the state of Jammu & Kashmir in 1990. It is the most detested and despised law in the eyes of the Kashmiris. Human Rights Watch censured this law as “a tool of state abuse, oppression and discrimination”. One of the powers given to an officer under this law is: “After giving such due warning, fire upon or use other kinds of force even if it causes death, against the person who is acting against law or order in the disturbed area for the maintenance of public order.” Not only this. What appears as a double whammy for Kashmiris, they have a Public Safety Act, which was promulgated in the year 1978 and is equally abhorred. According to the PSA, a person can be arrested and put in jail without trial for two years on the mere suspicion that he/she may be a threat to law and order or in any way act in a matter which may jeopardise the security of the state. Both these acts have been grossly misused, as reported by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Our dapper news anchors in their well-tailored suits shout their lungs out to lambast stone-pelters, conveniently labelling them as ‘anti-nationals’; our retired general sahabs beat the drums of jingoism, almost everytime the ceasefire breaks out;  they turn completely mum whenever human rights violations are discussed. Those who highlight or question the plight of Kashmiris are singularly chastised, and are even termed as traitors! Yes, I am talking about people like Burkha Dutt.

When the PDP-BJP alliance formed the government in Kashmir, a new ray of hope emerged for lakhs of Kashmiris. PDP leader, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said that this new coalition could be a “paradigm shift” in Kashmir’s political history. It’s hard to ascertain how much shift we are going to see after this tumultuous blunder that existed for more than 100 days and is still continuing.

Burhan Wani was a martyr for some, terrorist for many. The crowd we see in the funerals, the slogans we hear, the angry mob pelting stones, are not unprecedented. But the sorrow, the anguish, the grief is new. The wounds are old but the pain is new. A different approach is the need of this hour. Suppressing violence with violence will yield nothing but pain. It will act as a catalyst to the already existing and awful predicament. It would crucify any hopes of tranquillity. We need to restart peace talks with a new vigour which is already stuck in the quagmire of contentious deadlock. And most of all, we need to trust Kashmiris as citizens of this country and we owe them the peace they deserve.

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Image source: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

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