Kashmir; The Epicenter of Depression

by Azhar-U-Din

Kashmir valley is known for its ethereal beauty all over the world. Green lushes, crystal clear water streams, lofty mountains make it the perfect example of heaven in the existential world. Kashmiris have cataracts of depression and anxiety which hinders their eyes to see the beauty of their own motherland. Even in their dreams, the demon of melancholy and desolation makes their sleep uncomfortable and gloomy. They are exposed to both natural and man-made catastrophes and when one goes in dormant mode then the other is in an active phase.

Among every five people in Kashmir, nearly one shows the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder according to the Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (IMHANS). Kashmir has been entitled as one “the saddest place in the world” by a psychiatrist Dr. Arshad Hussain. This title itself reflects the hue and cry of every Kashmiri. It is not easy to live in Kashmir like Kashmiris where everyone is vulnerable to all disasters at every time. Ages-long political turmoil, sky touching unemployment rate, earthquake, flood, snow avalanches make this beautiful place as the 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 that nearly seventy thousand Kashmiris had lost their lives and about eight thousand had been reported missing in this 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 during the dawn of militancy 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 the depression is between 15 to 25 years. In the same study, he revealed that the rate of depression is higher in rural areas than in urban areas, especially much higher in rural females.

Suicides in Kashmir are rising at alarming rates. In 2021 the most deaths in the Kashmir valley occur to the suicides. Even the Sun city’s cement bridge in the Noor Bagh area of Srinagar has become a notorious and common point for suicide in Kashmir especially in the vicinity of Srinagar. Locals entitled this bridge as the Suicide bridge of Kashmir. Unemployment frustration became the pivotal reason for youth to suicide here. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) figures, J&K has a 22.2 percent unemployment rate, which is even higher than the national level unemployment rate of 7.1 percent recorded across India. 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 in the government sector and the job demand of highly qualified youth cannot be filled by the administration here. Thus, 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. Former drink for enjoyment while later drink to so-called wipe out the 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, the drug is not the solution to overcome the pain and agony but the youth find it as the temporary solution to overcome the level of stress and strain. Thus, the bud flowers who are the pillars of Kashmir’s future are slowly and gradually killed by the fiend of drug addiction with temporary and deceived pleasure.

Nature in Kashmir sometimes becomes so horrific and terrifying that it seems it is going to wipe out everything which comes into its way. Whether this terror-struck moment may be in the form of dust storms, deluge floods, earthquakes, snow avalanches, cloud bursts, etc. The major flood which hit Jammu and Kashmir in September 2014 resulted in the loss of approximately three hundred lives and destroyed everything which came in its way. It resulted in thousands of people being homeless and jobless and created mental trauma almost in the entire Kashmir valley and have created problems like Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). An earthquake that hit the Kashmir valley in 2005 with a magnitude of 7.6 and snow avalanches and mudslides killed 175 people Kund and Waltengo Nar villages in Kulgam district are noteworthy examples of nature’s anguish over Kashmir which resulted in the charming faces of Kashmiri into nightmarish and scary.

It is impossible to control natural catastrophes in any part of the world but human beings are in the condition to not only control but to eradicate all the roots of human disasters. Even in modern times, natural disasters cause less pain and agony to humanity than the human misadventures.  We are all human beings and are from the same species thus, everyone has the right to live his/her life with dignity and honour on this mother earth. Kashmiris who are in a hell of depression and anxiety are the result of deep-rooted political instability, unemployment, less development in the region, and other social problems. It is the responsibility and the need of the hour that all think tanks and staunch supporters of the humanistic approach should come forward to save the people of Kashmir from abjection and distress and prove that humanity still exists on this beautiful earth.

About the Author:

The author is a columnist in the various regional newspapers and national periodicals and magazines and is a student of Philosophy and Geography at Aligarh Muslim University.   


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