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.
Shah Faesal’s political launch
Former IAS officer, Shah Faesal, finally came up with his own party. On Sunday, he announced the formation of Jammu and Kashmir Peoples’ Movement as his party at a public function in Srinagar. Around 3000 people, mostly driven from Kupwara district, attended the Shah’s party launch. The only known face accompanying Faesal was former JNU vice president and research scholar Shehla Rashid. Shah Faesal, typical to a standard politician, virtually promised moon to the people once he was voted to power. From resolution of Kashmir issue to restoring Silk Road, Shah Faesal promised to resolve all the issues pertaining to the people of the state. Shah Faesal resigned from government service in January to pursue political career. Initially, it was understood that he would join National Conference but ultimately formed his own party to give what he said “a new politics to the state has seen only miseries in the past 70 years”. It would be quite premature to comment on the future of Shah’s party but it is just another addition to existing political parties. Politics in Kashmir is a tightly controlled market. Opening in the market, no doubt, is free but the sustenance and rise is restricted. It would be quite premature to comment on the success or failure of Shah Faesal and his political venture but in the given political scenario, he could end up as yet another Babar Bader or Imran Rahi. People have already started questioning his intentions as what made him to join politics when he could have delivered better in his previous position. A common perception is that pro India political tribe is facing severe crisis of leadership. Omar Abdullah and Mahbooba, who were projected as future hope when they took plunge in politics, have bitterly failed, both, in and outside the government. When Omar Abdullah was appointed as chief minister of the state in 2009, some news channels addressed him as Barak Obama of Kashmir. The “iconic” image of both Omar and Mahbooba was blown into heaps by the wind in 2010 and 2016. To a many people, Shah Faesal has been brought in to fill the gap that is becoming wider with each passing day.
Faesal is young and has influenced man a young minds when he qualified the prestigious IAS examination in 2009. He was projected as icon of Kashmiri youth. Many young minds were inspired by him and in the process got to the prestigious All India Civil Services. In 2016 when Kashmiri youth overwhelmingly hit streets in protest against the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, many media outlets in India tried to project Shah as the real icon of Kashmiri youth. Hoewever, the youth in Kashmir are on a rebellious path. Right from University scholars to school drop-outs, a rage of sorts is igniting the young minds to defiance. It is not going overboard to say that Burhan Wani, in recent years, came as inspiration. Though militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is around 30 year old but since 2002, it had started a gradual decline. And many areas in the valley, south Kashmir in particular, were declared as militant free. It was against this backdrop that 2008 assembly elections, despite Amarnath Land row, witnessed huge participation of people. The rise of Burhan Wani, however, gave a new direction to the entire political spectrum. Shah Faesal’s joining politics has to be seen in this context. Whatever his aims and objectives, Shah Faecal has an uphill task before him and there are many challenges that he has to face. Would he be able to deliver or not, only time will say.
Christchurch terror strike
New Zealand is deemed as the most peaceful, quiet and secured land with utmost beauty. But on Friday a brute terror attack shook the country to its foundation. Forty-nine people were killed when a gun-wielding white terrorist attacked two mosques at Christchurch when Muslims were offering congregational Friday prayers. Dozens more were left wounded. The horrific events have left the country in mourning and shock. Muslims make up less than 1% of New Zealand’s population and the faith’s most prominent adherent is a rugby player. The attacker, an Australian by birth, proudly live streamed the video of the attack on his face book account. He offered a smile on his arrest by police. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern deserves all the appreciation for condemning the massacre as an act of terrorism. She called it the darkest hour in her country’s history. She also visited the families of the wounded and dead persons which in itself demonstrated the human values in her country are still supreme. But the reaction in other countries was not as strong as it demanded. In fact, an Australian MP justified the carnage of Muslims for their growing population in western countries. In UK, a Muslim man was beaten with a hammer and a batten outside a mosque in east London, hours after 49 people were killed in the terror attack on two mosques in New Zealand. The assaulters shouted abusive words with Islamophobic content as they drove past the mosque and called people attending Friday prayers as terrorists. From the US to France to Australia, Muslims are persistently vilified and attacked, while biases against them are normalized. It is only confirmation of the pernicious spread of Islamophobia spread after 9/11 terror attacks in the United States. Islamophobia or hate-Muslim ideology is undoubtedly real and on the rise and being propagated online. It has become mainstream in almost all the western countries, more particularly, in America, UK, Australia and Franc. The U S President Donald Trump is personally known for spreading bigotry through his hateful rhetoric. It is perhaps for this fact that the West did not evoke the reaction to Muslim killings as it could have evoked for the case being otherwise. There were no candle marches, street demonstrations and mourning functions on the savage killing of New Zealand Muslims the way the world had witnessed in protest against terror strike in France in 2015.
The silence by Indian government and media too is something horrifying. Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended unlimited sympathy to the people and government of France after 2015 terror attack by ISIS but did not utter a word on the aghast killing of Muslims in New Zealand. The so-called media of the world’s largest democracy also followed the foot-steps of the Prime in maintaining silence on the gruesome incident, notwithstanding the fact that India has a population of around 200 million Muslims. Like in the West, Muslims in India too are facing communal wrath at the hands of the Majority community. The rise of BJP to the power with Narendra Modi (with his Gujrat baggage) at the top has normalized anti Muslim outlook in every section of the society. Such people were termed in the beginning as fringe elements but the fringe has become mainstream now. It is dangerous game that is being played in the arena of world politics: Muslims versus the rest. It goes without saying the majority of the people still believe in peaceful co-existence. But they need to come out of the hibernation and take active lead roles. It is their absence in public and political life that gives the unwanted people space. Muslims also need to do some soul-searching and people with self-manufactured far-extremist views need to be through out of the mainstream.
The Divine Reality
Who are we? Where did we come from? How did life originate on this planet? Who were our ancestors? These are some of the intriguing questions that each of us grapples with at least once in our lifetime.
People look for logical and satisfactory answers to these queries both in religion and science. While the three Semitic religions— Islam, Christianity and Judaism— share a common belief in the origin of mankind, Hinduism has a slightly different view. According to the famous tale of Purusha as mentioned in one of the early Vedas, a cosmic man’s sacrifice created all life. According to the Bible, God just said: “Let there be light”, and only in six days the sun, moon, land and sky and all living creatures came into existence. Similarly, the origin of mankind is beautifully embedded in a mystical Quranic verse: “Kun Faya Kun”. It means “the originator of the heavens and the earth (Allah). When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be!’ and it is.”
However, we need a deeper insight into the origin of mankind in order to fathom the complete creation plan in a cogent manner. Quran further says: “O mankind, be conscious of your Lord, who created you from one soul (Adam) and created from it its mate (Eve) and dispersed from both of them many men and women” (4:1). This Quranic verse reminds us of our origin, oneness and commonality, something that has become the most forgotten reality in today’s world. In addition, a lot more verses in Quran unravel the eternal truth that all human beings have one creator, one father and one mother. They actually laid the basis of the Sufi worldview of Wahdat-ul-Wujud (unity of being).
The notion of Wahdat-ul-Wujud was propounded by Ibn Arabi, an eminent Spanish mystic who has inspired a countless number of Sufis in the history of Islam. Eminent sufis such as Shahab-ud-Din Suhrawardi have written complete spiritual treatises on the related Quranic verses which have been referred as untenable esoteric proofs for the Sufi belief in the Unity of Being.
For Ibn Arabi, the entire world is only one “Divine Reality”. He strongly believed that there was none and would be nothing in the universe except for the existence of one and only Divine. Thus, the world and whatever it has in it including the entire humankind, is nothing other than the self-revelation of God by Himself. In his spiritual discourse on this subject, Ibn Arabi wrote in his book Fusus al-Hikam (The Seals of Wisdom)—one of the most in-depth panoramas of Islamic spirituality: “Allah, the Most Truthful (al-haqq) wanted to see the essences (al-a’yan) of His most perfect and infinite Names (al-asma al-husna)… Allah wanted to see His own Essence (‘ayn) in one global object (kawn) which having been blessed with existence (al-wujud) summarised the Divine order (al-amr) so that He could manifest His mystery (sirr) to Himself.”
This clearly sets out that mankind did not appear on this earth by sheer chance. Rather, Allah willed that peoples from different ethnicities and with different faith traditions inhabit the earth as a manifestation of the Unity (wahdat). If we remind ourselves of this basic point, all polemics of racism, xenophobia, misogynism, ethnic superiority and religious bigotry would disappear from this world which is founded on the beautiful spiritual notion — unity of being.