Kashmir’s 20-Year Conflict Legacy
By Farooq A Ganai, IOL Correspondent
SRINAGAR — Twenty years of militancy in the India-controlled part of Muslim-majority Kashmir have taken massive toll on the people who are victimized by violence, abuse, disease, poverty and ignorance.
"It is not only killings that have affected Kashmiris but the torture done to the people by Indian security forces," human rights activist Khuram Parvez told IslamOnline.net.
"Young boys are addicted to drugs, children got orphaned and thousands of women spending widowed life."
More than 60,000 people have been killed since Kashmiris took up arms against the Indian rule in 1989.
Kashmir is divided into two parts and ruled by India and Pakistan, which have fought two of their three wars since the 1947 independence over the disputed Himalayan region.
Pakistan and the UN back the right of the Kashmir people for self-determination, an option opposed by New Delhi.
Experts affirm that the psychological scars are inflicted upon people of all ages.
Dr. Adrees, a resident doctor in Kashmir’s main hospital, said thousands of patients come complaining from gastrointestinal problems, headaches, sleeplessness and mysterious pains.
"Multiple problems are seen in the patients having history of stress due to the turmoil," he told IOL.
"Mental stress gives birth to multiple diseases and one can even lose memory if not treated in time."
More than 60,000 Kashmiris registered in the psychiatric hospital in Srinagar with serious trauma in 2007.
Doctors say the figure only represents the tip of the iceberg as many do not visit mental health experts because of the huge stigma attached to mental illness.
They estimate that one million people — ten percent of Kashmir's population — has suffered from some form of depression, with a number displaying suicidal tendencies.
Mehbooba Ghulam Rasool, a 25-year resident of Baramulla village, is one of many who remain haunted and psychologically scarred by the conflict.
"To me, every day of my life is a living hell," she told IOL tearfully.
She says has lost everything on the day her father and uncle were kidnapped by some unknown gunmen many years back.
"I still remember the evening when four gunmen entered our house and took away my father and uncle. Since then they never came back," she recalled.
"Not only that, but I also lost my grandfather who went searching for his two sons and never came back."
Since then Rasool, who was only a child when this happened, has been condemned to misery.
For years, she has been trying to find out what happened but in vain.
"No government aid was given to us and the disappearance report filed with police is yet to reach final conclusion."
For Girl Ruhi, a 17-year-old girl, the story is all too familiar.
"My father was simply a business man who always kept a distance from both the state and militants," she said.
"The only fault of my father was that he refused to give his car to the gunmen killed him."
Some 8,000 Muslims have gone missing in the region since 1989, most after they were detained by Indian security forces who have broad powers of arrest.
Many people lament that 20 years of conflict have left their homeland on the brink of collapse as the infrastructure remains in tatters and all aspects of life crumbles.
"Every developed country or state wants to be No 1, but Kashmir returned 30 years back as the infrastructure problems increased more and more," notes Ali Mohd Wani, a business man.
The infrastructure is in ruins as more money is being spent on government personnel than on development.
Many experts assert that education is the most affected sector in Kashmir.
Qazi Sajad Delinavi, a political scientist, says thousands of students attend their exams at gun point which puts their future at stake.
Maqsood Ahmad Wani, of the University of Kashmir, contends that damaging schools and universities is one of the main causes for the under-standard education system in the Kashmir.
Separatist leaders admit that the years of struggle have inflicted a heavy toll on people, insisting that the sacrifices would eventually bring freedom to Kashmir.
"Every Kashmiri makes his or her sacrifice for the cause of Kashmir freedom," Zaffar Akbar Bhat, Chairman of the Salvation Moment, told IOL.
"Wherever there is a conflict or freedom struggle, people suffer but at the same time the issue becomes more relevant and meaningful."
Mehbooba, the girl whose family was devastated by the conflict, disagrees.
"I always curse the day when militancy started in Jammu and Kashmir."