March 2002 News

Terror drives Kashmiris to seek refuge in death

11 March 2002
The Hindustan Times
Rashid Ahmad

Srinagar: Nearly 13 years of bloody militancy has begun to take a toll on life in Jammu and Kashmir in ways other than through spectacular terrorist strikes. For many in the valley, the seemingly endless violence, the omnipresent fear and tension and severe shortage of employment opportunities have begun to represent a life worse than death—reason enough, in fact, to put an end to life itself. As many as five people have killed themselves in the valley in the past one week. Three others have attempted suicide. And several other cases might well have gone unreported. On the surface, the provocation in most cases has been domestic conflict or financial troubles. But that's a very superficial understanding of the problem. The roots of the desire to die really lie in Kashmir's prevailing situation, say doctors and psychologists. Repeated exposure to unpleasant events and shocks in personal life engenders negative thoughts, triggering tendencies towards both aggression and depression. 'And both have a fatal effect on human psychology,' said a senior psychiatrist here. 'Suicide is the manifestation of depression,' said Dr Habibullah Zargar, prominent surgeon and former principal, Government Medical College. Depression and anxiety are so common in Kashmir these days that doctors are unable to cope up with the rising number of cases, he said. Insurgency—and its impact on society and economy - has bludgeoned into submission even the famed Kashmiri spirit of never-say-die. 'Kashimiris have survived through severe poverty, indigence and destitution for ages. Even in extreme conditions they have always shown courage,' said Hakim Manzoor, prominent writer and poet. But 'aaj unhoney zinda rehne ka hausla kho diya hai … isiliye khudkushi kar rahe hain (they have lost their will to live … that is why they have been committing suicide).' Buttressing the tendency towards depression are all sorts of drugs, freely available across the counter in the state. There is virtually no drug control in the Valley, and depressants can be purchased practically everywhere. 'When drugs are available so easily, people like to take refuge in them', shrugged Dr Tariq Ahmad of the Soura Medical Institute.


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