Among every five people in Kashmir, one shows symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (IMHANS). Kashmir has been entitled as “the saddest place in the world” by psychiatrist Dr Arshad Hussain. It is not easy to live in Kashmir, for in Kashmir everyone is vulnerable to disasters at every time. Ages-long political turmoil, sky-high unemployment rate, earthquakes, floods, avalanches make this beautiful place a living hell for the local residents.
“When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers the most”. This famous African proverb is apt for the people of Kashmir. Till 2015, it has been estimated by scholars, nearly seventy-thousand Kashmiris had lost their lives and about eight-thousand had been reported missing in the bloody conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Syed Amin in his paper titled “Life in conflict: Characteristics of Depression in Kashmir” stated that due to the perpetual conflict in Kashmir, there has been a breathtaking increase in psychiatric morbidity. The results of his study narrated that the preponderance of depression in Kashmir is 55.72% and the age group which is worst hit by is 15 to 25 years. In the same study he revealed that the rate of depression is higher in the rural areas than in the urban areas, and especially much higher among rural females.
Suicides in Kashmir are rising at alarming rates. Even the cement bridge in Noor Bagh area of Srinagar has become a notorious point for suicide by drowning. Locals call this bridge the Suicide Bridge. Frustration is the main reason for suicide here. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), J&K has a 22.2 percent unemployment rate, which is much higher than the national level unemployment rate of 7.1 percent. Due to very little industrial development here, the young minds are wholly and solely dependent on government jobs and the gap between the vacancies available and the job demand cannot be filled by the administration here. Thus, the question of how to earn bread and milk puts great strain on the minds of Kashmiri youth and they become more vulnerable to suicide. Depression and anxiety also gave birth to drug addiction in Kashmir. There is a hell of a difference between bar drinkers and those who drink at the footpaths and pavements. While the former drink for enjoyment, the latter drink to wipe out woes and miseries. It is estimated from a survey conducted by the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) that there are approximately 70,000 people in Kashmir who are drug addicts, among whom 4,000 are females. It is important to mention here that the rate of drug addiction in Kashmir is continuously increasing among students, both males and females. Indeed, drugs are not the solution to overcome pain and agony but the youth find it as a temporary solution to overcome stress.
Nature in Kashmir sometimes becomes so horrific and terrifying that it seems it is going to wipe out everything which comes in its way. This may be in the form of dust storms, deluge floods, earthquakes, snow avalanches, or cloudbursts. The major flood which hit Jammu and Kashmir in September 2014 resulted in the loss of approximately three-hundred lives and thousands of people becoming homeless. The earthquake that hit Kashmir valley in 2005 with a magnitude of 7.6 along with snow avalanches and mudslides killed 175 people in Kund and Waltengo Nar villages in Kulgam district.
Kashmiris who are in a hell of depression and anxiety are in this situation because of deep-rooted political instability, unemployment, less development in the region, and other social and geographical problems. It is the need of the hour that all think tanks and common people come forward to save the people of Kashmir from distress.
—The writer is a student of Philosophy and Geography at Aligarh Muslim University. [email protected]