Mantasha Bint Rashid
My generation is full of envy whenever our parental generation mentions how they would throng theatres like Broadway and Regal, how they would go in Dungas to Char Chinari and Roap la’nk, how, as kids, they would wait eagerly for the walnuts on Hehrath (Mahashivratri).
It all seems like a fairy tale to us. We grew up in the armed conflict, we ran breathless in chagg, we woke up to ransacked houses in crackdowns and we peeped through crevices to see shinakhati parades. We grew up wiping the tears of our mothers waiting for us to return from school, if it took a little more than usual. We woke up in nights to hug our siblings, all sweat and shiver. We have seen blood and corpses, heard grenades and mines, lived our childhood, adolescence and now youth, in conflict.
When my friends from anywhere in India gasp on seeing the lakes and mountains of Kashmir and exclaim how lucky I was to be born here, I smirk. They can’t understand what we survived. With political nuances occupying front seat in the whole of subcontinent, I keep wondering what about the social and mental health of the conflict torn society and the people who grew up in this conflict?
As I write this, a sonic boom made me and everyone around jump out of our skin. Precisely this is one of the small effects of the loud sounds which makes us connect even fireworks to something obnoxious and leaves us pale.
A study conducted at Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Science shows that 55 percent of the valley’s population suffers from one or the other mental illness. The consumptions of de-stressing drugs is alarmingly high and medically prescribed drugs are widely abused too. The lone hospital which caters to mental ailments where 800 patients reported annually in 1980’s now caters to 80,000 patients every year!
What disturbs me most as a child of conflict is the stigma we attach to the people who visit this hospital. Already victimised, they are faced with difficulty in getting jobs, in getting married. How do we know that we are not facing any disorder in our thought process or emotional health? That 55 percent could comprise of you and me. And this discrimination is unpardonable.
Now with a relative calm in conflict, we are left with post conflict scars. And as we try to discover these harms and losses, we are faced with a situation where we are not allowed to even carry daily routine. Our schooling is getting affected, Patients don’t reach hospitals. Daily wagers don’t earn their two square meals. A common man whose back is already broken by two decades of conflict is being pushed to the wall with a series of mindless calendars and hartals? We, as people, who are already so helpless should ask those who claim to represent us as to what has thousands of lost lives achieved? As if that wasn’t enough, we are now punishing the living too. We have suffered enough. Let that false calm prevail at least which the world perceives as “peace”. That is any day better than being caged like wild animals.
Let us come to terms with the loss caused in two decades already. Let us devise ways to adjust and accept. Politics can wait. Even Azadi can wait. Please, let us live.
(The opinion of the writer is personal and has nothing to do with the institution she works for.)