Increasing cases of suicide in Kashmir

By Sarir Khalid

Srinagar: For the past many years newspapers in Kashmir Valley contain almost daily news of suicides by men, women and even children in their teens for some reason or the other which is indeed a matter a great concern for everybody here. People in the Valley are already beset with the problems of frequent strikes, violence by militants as well as police and security forces for more than two decades leading to the disruption of people’s daily life, business, education of children and added to all these is the growing number of suicides.

According to cases registered in police stations or taking place in hospitals and other places, as many as 1100 cases of suicides have taken place in the Valley last year. During the five or six months of the current year also, at least a hundred persons have attempted suicide and out of them about 30 persons succeeded in ending their lives. According to a latest survey, at least 17000 people committed suicide in the Valley during the past 21 years. What is a matter of greater concern is that according to the National Crime Record Bureau of India, on an average at least one person takes his/her life daily in Kashmir and in this respect the Valley has left behind much bigger states like U.P. and Bihar.

In addition to the common reasons for suicide, like failure in examinations, unsuccessful love affairs, unhappy married and family life, frustration because of unemployment etc., a special reason of suicide in Kashmir is the uncertain political situation.

According to a prominent psychologist, Dr. Hamidullah Shah, Kashmiri people face many such problems which give rise to the trend of suicide in Kashmiri society. According to him, uncertain and some times dangerous situation has greatly weakened people’s power of forbearance which is responsible for suicide. According to him, in an atmosphere where there is violence, fear of militants as well as of security forces and uncertain condition for more than two decades, healthy physical, psychological and mental growth is not possible and people feel inclined to get away from such a situation by taking an extreme step like suicide.

Though in many states of India, ordinary people and thousands of farmers are committing suicide because of poverty and inability to pay back loans, in J&K the reason for suicides is not poverty as much as acute and constant mental tension because of violence, fear and uncertain social and political conditions.

According to some psychologists, blind race for materialism, ever-increasing unemployment etc. also give rise to incidents of suicide, particularly among the youth. According to a sociologist, he found in a survey that among those who committed suicide, most were between 17 and 26 years of age and sadly enough, as many as 62 percent of them were women and girls. The blind race for material comforts, unnecessary and superfluous expenditure, promoted by a materialistic culture, have so much worried parents that they find it difficult to get their daughters married. Many of the young boys and girls have crossed their marriageable age while their parents find great difficulty in getting them married and this puts a mental burden not only on parents but on their children also, particularly girls.

As far as unemployment is concerned, in the Valley alone more than three lakh well-educated youth are facing unemployment. As many as 5000 engineers, same number of doctors and other professional experts too are facing unemployment. A much higher number of persons are facing under-employment, i.e., employed but their salaries are not commensurate to their qualifications and experience etc.

Uncertain political and social conditions and fear because of militancy and strong arms tactics used by police and security forces have greatly added to the mental trauma of people.

Before the advent of militancy in 1989-90, incidents of suicide were virtually nil in the Valley. According to experts, because of lingering violence over years, post-traumatic stress disorders are fast gripping the people of J&K. In this state’s lone hospital for mental and psychological diseases whereas a total of about 1200 patients had got themselves registered in 1989, in the same hospital there were now about one lakh patients in 2011. According to a survey conducted by S.K. Institute of Medical Sciences, 55 percent population of the Valley is a victim of some psychological ailment or the other.

According to some doctors, a majority of such people do not go to hospitals at all because of some reason or the other and the number of such mental patients may be much more than the estimates of sociologists and other experts.

These conditions prevail in the security forces also. According to a report of the defence ministry, about 800 army personnel committed suicide between the period 2005 and 2012 and about nine percent of the forces posted in the state are victims of mental tension.

Everybody, from government officials to common people and religious and social reformers and leaders, is naturally worried at the increasing graph of suicides but the pity is that no effective steps, long-term or short-term, are being taken by the government or concerned authorities who matter to check this menace.

Valley’s Mufti-e Azam, Mufti Bashiruddin, in view of the growing cases of suicide had issued a fatwa a few years back which, while describing it as haram and un-Islamic, had asked people not to participate in namaz-e janaza of persons who commit suicide in order to discourage this un-Islamic practice but this fatwa appears to have had no effect.

According to some sociologists, parents, government and religious leaders can play an important role in preventing this evil. They suggest that Masjid imams and preachers should urge and warn people in their sermons and speeches to desist from this evil practice and other evils like taking of drugs and intoxicants and quote the examples of the Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions. Some others suggest that instead of sex education, psychology should be introduced in schools. Some medical experts suggest that ‘Prevent Suicide Centres’ should be opened and persons who show any signs of suicidal behaviour should be treated in these centres.

According to Dr. Muzaffar Ahmad Khan, a psychologist, such centres opened in Bangalore are proving useful where a few years ago cases of suicides had registered alarming figures. These centres are proving successful in Karnataka. However, social reformers say that the government’s role in preventing such incidents can be effective by providing employment to people, particularly to the educated youth, strongly curbing bribery and corruption, and by providing security to the people.  (Translated from Urdu)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 August 2012 on page no. 5

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