It is quite disturbing to note that three attempts to death by suicide were reported from the valley on Thursday. All the three, two of them girls, are reported young. They are reported to have taken poisonous substances to end their lives. But their attempts failed due to timely medical intervention. Over the past few years the tendency towards suicides has menacingly increased in Kashmir. Since January this year, at least, 10 persons are reported to have died by committing suicide in various parts of the valley. Though the immediate cause of suicides, in majority of cases, is said to be domestic problems but psychiatrists say that the long-drawn armed conflict has affected a large section of the population negatively that prompts them to take extreme steps even on slightest provocation. They say that Kashmir has become the den of psychiatric patients, and if steps are not taken to address this, it would have serious repercussions on the future generations. The seriousness of the situation can be gauged from the fact that the solitary government-run hospital for psychiatric diseases in Srinagar is recording the arrival of dozens of fresh cases of patients every day. Even as experts would have us believe it was a “global phenomenon,” the prevailing conditions and unending political uncertainty in the valley have combined to take a heavy toll on the mental health of its people. At present, around 150 patients suffering from various psychological ailments are admitted in the hospital every day, and their count is increasing with each day. Lately, a new category of patients are reporting at the hospital whose psychological disorders are traced to increasing competition and industrial activity. “A few years back, psychological disorder was attributed only to present conflict but, at present, there are multiple reasons behind the increasing numbers of psychological problems. Majority of them are related to environmental stress and over-burden of work,” doctors would tell us. Such patients, they assert, need extra care and prolonged treatment. Incidentally, women constitute the vast majority of patients suffering from psychological disorders. The valley has been going through a virtual hell for around three decades now with thousands of women losing their husbands, sons and other dear ones in the on-going turmoil. While most such affected women, mostly widows, are living in abject misery and penury, thousands of women have been traumatized following the enforced disappearance of their husbands after being picked up randomly by police or security forces. Described as “half widows” their plight is far more poignant as they assemble in or around the city centre at Srinagar every month to demand the whereabouts of their missing husbands from the callous government. Lately, there has also been a sharply upward trend in suicides, with teenagers or youth being the victims in most cases. The alarming tendency is traced to several factors, including the increasing pressure of studies. Rampant unemployment among the educated youth has led to a highly explosive situation marked by growing frustration. Thousands of the desperate youth are believed to have become drug addicts as a result. Going by reports, most people in the valley and the hill regions of Jammu suffer from psychological disorders, generally complaining of anxiety, depression, hysteria or post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). It is an open secret that everyone is a victim of the conflict in one or other way.
Sadly, the state government, which is never tired of churning out lofty promises of moons and stars to the people, is brazenly unconcerned about this disturbing situation. In spite of claiming an investment of hundreds of crores of rupees on the improvement of healthcare infrastructure it has failed to provide for an effective and matching response to the mental health problems facing more than 90 per cent of the state population. With the number of patients swelling by the day, the valley’s only Psychiatric Diseases hospital in downtown Srinagar, having outlived its age, is pathetically ill-equipped to cater to their needs. Incidentally, the absence of civil society players in the key mental health area has aptly aggravated the grim scenario, particularly in the valley. Indeed some reputed non-governmental organizations have been carrying out some activity, albeit on a modest scale, to create a cadre of dedicated para-counselors or to supplement government activities in the field of child guidance and counseling. However, given the magnitude of the problem, these feeble efforts can hardly make any discernible impact on the situation. It is time the government got its priorities right and initiated comprehensive measures for addressing the grave problem in the right earnest.
Graveyard of reputations
For the past few days Shah Faesal, the former IAS officer, has been at the receiving end of a barrage of social media mélange of praise and ire for his decision to give up bureaucracy. The 2009 IAS topper hit media headlines on Wednesday last week when he announced his resignation from the Indian Administrative Services “in protest against the unabated killings” in Kashmir. Some political and peoples’ sections welcomed it as “voice of conscience”. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Omar Abdullah too were among those who were impressed by Shah Faesal’s decision. Mirwaiz sounded cautious saying “hope his outrage over killings and his sentiment that #KashmiriLivesMatter guide his choice of politics”. But the way Omar Abdullah reacted to Shah’s decisions, it looked that he was already in know of it and he knew about Shah’s future plans as well. He called it “bureaucracy’s loss is gain of politics” and welcomed Shah to the “fold”.
Omar’s reaction was a clear indication that Shah was eyeing to enter mainstream politics after giving up a thriving bureaucratic career. Some later statements of Shah also corroborated the fact that he is contesting upcoming parliamentary election. Profession is a personal choice. Politics is not a forbidden profession. Like any other person, Shah Faesal is free to try his luck in politics. How he is going to pursue this is a matter of time, which he has asked from the people. On Sunday, Faesal asked Kashmir to give him six months and then “judge” him. His post on Facebook read: “People who have seen nothing but betrayals for last seventy years can’t be expected to trust someone easily. In fact I am totally against blind-faith in individuals and uncritical follower-ship. Kashmiris know what agencies can do and again, the agency angle is also totally understood. Kashmiris are not paranoid, Kashmiris are angry and heartbroken. So I won’t ask you to trust me at once. I have given up a lot to be here and at this moment I am not even claiming that I did it for you. Let the time decide who did what and for whom. I want you to give me six months and then judge me. Just six months. Will you?”
Kashmir, being a graveyard of reputations that it is, can, however, afford to give Faesal these six months. Only time will tell that whether the state lost a cut-above-the-rest bureaucrat or gained a politician whose words and deeds are in sync with each other. Only time will tell whether this young blood will bring any positive changes or he, like scores of others, too will be sucked into the political marshland of Kashmir: a space that, for now, involves only mudslinging, desertion and broken promises. Will Shah Faesal be able to inspire the young minds of Kashmir the way he was when he made it to the top rank in exhaustive IAS examination? Or will those youth find themselves on the wrong side of the spectrum once he takes a formal plunge into politics? Only time will tell…
Sorry state of affairs
It is matter of grave concern that crimes against women in Jammu and Kashmir are increasing at a dangerous pace. An official report has revealed a grim picture.The year that passed (2018) was the most trying. The year recorded nearly 1000 cases of crimes (mainly rape) against women. Reports suggest that the actual number is more than the double as many victims have not reported to the police due to social stigma attached to such incidents. The figures show that after every 24 hours a woman was raped in the state. It is a serious reflection on the moral and social conduct of the people of the state. It is not going overboard to say that Jammu and Kashmir is at the brink of moral annihilation. What is even more concerning is that some of these heinous crimes were communally motivated. The rape and murder of 8-year old Muslim girl at Kathua in Jammu is a point in case.Though the case is under judicial scrutiny but some of the shades of the case exposed by the investigators are horrific and heart-wrenching. The communal slant of the case became public when thousands of Hindus led by BJP and Congress leaders held street demonstrations in support of the criminals involved in the rape and murder of the hapless girl. Even the lawyers sided with the alleged perpetrators of the crimes.
They tried to stop police from filing chargesheet in the court. A latest case wherein a minor Muslim girl was repeatedly raped has surfaced in Ramban district of Jammu. A 13-year-old Muslim girl from Ramban district of Jammu region was, allegedly, repeatedly raped for several months by a man from the same area. The incident came to the fore after the girl became unwell a few days ago. Victim’s family, who live in Varnal Sarbagni area of the district, rushed her to the hospital where doctors told them she has been raped multiple times. The victim narrated the incident before the magistrate that she was raped for the last three months. Following which the police arrested the accused Sanju Singh of Varnal area of Ramban. Property dispute, personal enmity, drug addiction, sexual lust and several other reasons also contribute to the alarming trend. In September last year, a nine-year old girl was raped and murdered in Baramullah shocked the entire valley. She was raped and murdered by her step-brother and his friends at the behest of her stepmother who was jealous of her husband’s second wife. Moral waywardness is regarded as the main reason for such social crimes.
Drug-addiction is deemed as the most motivating factor for one to indulge in immoral acts. The menace of drugs is catching up the young Kashmir dangerously.Be it a way to fight personal crisis, means to wipe the mental scars or just a sign of being cool, a section of youth in Kashmir have fallen into the net of drugs. Charas, brown sugar, cocaine, cannabis, psychotropic drugs et al are the new weapons of mass destruction for the youth. Around forty per cent of our youth, a majority of them students, have become habitual drug addicts. What is more disturbing is that drug peddlers have found their way in the most sensitive areas of our society.
They have by now entrenched themselves into spaces of educational institutions as well. Some lower rung employees of educational institutions are reported to be in involved in trafficking of drugs in colleges and schools. It is sad to note that the state administration is acting as mute spectator to the deteriorating moral and social standards of the society. Police, which has the primary responsibility to curb such crimes, is found, in many ways, partner to the crimes. It is the responsibility of the state’s religious and political leadership as well to aware people of the harmful effects of such social evils.
Secular Democracy or Hindu Rashtra?
With freedom of the country and later coming in to being of Indian Constitution, India became a secular democratic republic. At the same time the breakaway Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in a speech in Pakistan Constituent Assembly also declared that Pakistan would be a secular state. Soon enough after the death of Jinnah the logic of partition took over and Pakistan in due course was declared the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Same Pakistan, which came to be formed in the name of Islam, broke into Bangla Desh and Pakistan on the ground of language and geography among other reasons. India progressed to be a secular state; has been trying to uphold the values of secularism. Despite many hiccups, its attempt to keep alignment with secular values has been there until couple of decades ago, when the issue of Ram Temple raked up along with an assertion that India is a Hindu Rashtra. Sectarian nationalists have been asserting that, the secular values and Indian Constitution are not as per the ethos of this country and so the Constitution be changed to pave the path for Hindu Rashtra (Nation).
The lopsided partition of India, formation of Pakistan in the name of Islam on one side and secular India on the other was the accepted historical fact at that time. With the assertion of Hindu nationalism, many of those who should know better are also not able to fathom the historical events in the correct light and its complexity. This came to surface yet again, when the judge of Meghalaya, Justice Sen, in a judgement related to a petition related to domicile certificate made comments that, as India was partitioned on the ground of religion and Pakistan was formed for Muslims, India should have been declared as a Hindu Rashtra. When faced with criticism he did say that he does believe in secularism and that India should not be further divided based on religion or caste.
How do we see such utterances from such learned judges and their likes? The history of India’s freedom movement and partition has been misrepresented times and over again. It shows that popular perceptions of the causes of partition tragedy do not present the real dynamics of the phenomenon and the massive tragedy of mass migration, which followed that partition process. The subcontinent continues to suffer from the after effects of partition in various forms. While in India, it is presumed that it was the separatism of Muslims, which led to partition, In Pakistan it is presumed that Muslims have been a nation since the time Mohammad bin Kasim ruled in Sind in eighth century, and that formation of Pakistan was needed to overcome the domination of Hindus.
Both these are mirror image views, which are very superficial and present the viewpoints of communal sections of society. Majority of Muslims and Hindus did stand for composite Indian nationalism, as represented by Indian National Congress (INC) led by Gandhi. These were the views of those who, which led the, anti-colonial movement, the movement for India’s independence. With the rise of freedom movement which represented the longings of the newly emerging social classes of industrialists, businesspersons, workers, and educated classes who aspired for a democratic society. They veered around, INC, Gandhi. The freedom movement had two aspects. One was to oppose the British rule and the other was to build modern India founded on the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
At the same time, the feudal elements, declining classes, started opposing the process of making of modern India and opposing the anti-colonial movement. These declining classes were steeped in the values of birth-based inequality, hierarchy of caste and gender. They in due course; separated in the name of religion. British policy of ‘Divide and rule’ played major role in separation of elements of feudal origin in the name of religion. First, Muslims elite was encouraged and they formed Muslim League and the remaining Hindu elite grouped themselves into Punjab Hindu Sabha and later Hindu Mahasabha. Interestingly only kings and land-lords were part of these organizations in the beginning.