A visit to any psychologist’s clinic in the Valley will reveal the enormous number of persons suffering from mental illness. And women are a majority among them. This writer had a chance of meeting such a woman some time ago at one of the psychiatric clinics. This lady was an acute reflection of the mental ailments that the Valley’s women are facing due to the prolonged oppression by security personnel.
This writer was shocked, and depressed, after witnessing her mental condition. How she has suffered at the hands of oppression!
There is no denying the fact that every clinic and hospital is crowded with such persons who are suffering in one way or the other just because of this occupation. Many stories of half widows and other brutal tragedies have been already told and lots of reports documented to portray the excesses committed by the Indian forces in Kashmir. The people of Kashmir have suffered a lot post 1989-90 in one way or the other. The struggle has already taken manifold twists and turns since then, yet there has been no fruitful solution except that the new generation is growing more sensitive towards the Kashmir issue and has started debating all the related issues.
This can definitely be a sign of growing resistance. Already, the new generation is well aware of history and the turns that the struggle has gone through, the circumstances that forced our struggle to lose some of its strength. The leaders too are coming out with their reasons on who failed whom, on whether the gun is the solution or what forced some resistance groups to give up the gun when they had resorted to armed struggle. It is actually something positive that the new generation has started thinking about these issues and is forthcoming with their opinions to help the struggle move forward.
The untold tale of thousands of people who have suffered in the past decades cannot be forgotten. There have been so many extrajudicial killings, disappearances, rapes, mass murders and torture that every four in ten persons you meet will tell you a personal story. There have been stories of our youngsters who joined the armed struggle just because they have seen their fathers beaten in front of their eyes, they have seen their sisters and mothers assaulted by army men. They have been brutalised in their own lands where they see half a million troops deployed. It is only because of this conflict that there have been a rising number of suicides in Kashmir.
Here too, the worst affected happen to be women. They are many reports that will give you the exact number of suicides women have committed because of being the victims of sexual violence perpetrated by Indian forces. An Indian magazine carried one such report a few years ago, where 11.6% women respondents say they have been the victims of sexual violence. Kashmiri women are among the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the world. The major incident of Kunan-Poshpora still haunts the people. The perpetrators are still to be punished despite the open fact that women were raped in numbers; and everybody is well aware of the fact how the “report” was changed to save the perpetrators. Not a single army man has been punished yet, despite all the committees that were set up to bring justice in this and other cases.
The big truth is that there is nothing like justice for Kashmiris in Indian democracy. The laws are manipulated in such a way that the perpetrators are saved at any cost. What happened to the famous case of Jalil Andrabi? The Machil fake encounter is still in the news. And the same is the case in hundreds of such incidents. Kashmir has witnessed many such mass murders: Bijbehara massacre, Handwara massacre, the Gaw Kadal massacre…. Despite knowing that there has been a lot of injustice in Kashmir the government has always turned a blind eye towards the people. All this has created a psychological imbalance in the people.
Disappearances have been soaring in number since 1989-90. Mass graves have been found almost everywhere, containing the bodies of those disappeared during years. The figure given by noted activist Parvez Imroz is rather disturbing. After investigations into 2,700 such graves during 2005-2009, they have found 2,373 graves that are unmarked. 151 have more than one body and 23 graves contained 3-17 bodies. Such are the figures!
Credit goes to people like the Iron Lady of Kashmir, Parveena Ahanger, who stood strong and despite losing their loved ones are continuously fighting against oppression.
This article was prompted by just one woman at a mental health clinic. There are hundreds of other such women who have suffered. There may be many other women whose stories are yet to be told or maybe we would have lost them. However, it is heartening that there is a new wave of struggle in Kashmir where every single person is putting in efforts to keep the freedom movement going. Everyone is documenting his or her pain in one way or the other.
There must be more attempts to narrate stories and debate the leadership. And we must also ask an important question: where do we stand after so many sacrifices?
—The writer is a BSc Horticulture student at SKUAST