Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

When Ignorance is a Curse!

Afsana drops in to check the psychiatric hospital and uncovers the unspoken side of the Kashmiri culture

(Ms. Afsana Rashid, 29, was born and raised in Srinagar and attended the Minto Circle High School. She graduated from the Government College for Women with a Bachelor's degree in science, and completed her post-graduation degree from the University of Kashmir, obtaining her Master's Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism. Ms. Rashid works as a senior journalist in the Daily Etalaat. She has received numerous world-wide recognition and awards for covering economic depravation and gender sensitive issues in Kashmiri journals, which include Sanjoy Ghose Humanitarian Award, Bhorukha Trust Media Award 2007, and the 2006-07 UNFPA-Ladli Media Award. Her work on "Impact of conflict on subsistence livelihood of marginalised communities in Kashmir and Alternatives", was recognized by Action Aid India in 2005-06. She has travelled abroad attending a workshop on "conflict Reporting" by Thomson Foundation, Cardiff, UK, and a seminar for women in conflict areas by IKV Pax Christi, Netherlands. In February 2008, she compiled a book, "Waiting for Justice: Widows and Half-widows.")

A Visit to Srinagar Psychiatric Hospital

Afsana Rashid

Srinagar: “What are you looking for? I am not a patient. They are there,” says a female inmate pointing towards other inmates in one of the wards of the Valley’s lone psychiatric hospital in Srinagar. Zonna (name changed), another inmate, just roams around. Zora has been in the hospital for the last two decades.

As this correspondent was jotting down the details, Shazia (name changed), another inmate came rushing down and took the pen saying, “I too can write” and puts her name on the writing pad. However, she begins with “Quran Sharief”. Feeling excited over her writing, Shazia says, “I enjoyed writing”.

There are 21 female inmates in the hospital from different districts including Srinagar, Baramulla, Pulwama and Budgam. “At times they fight with each other over trifle issues, turn violent and then injections are used to pacify them. They also turn violent when suddenly any one visits them from home,” says Khatee, a maid in the hospital.

She admits that families of inmates show a “cold-shoulder response” and do not visit them frequently. “There are 5-6 cases who can be send back, but their families are not ready to accept them,” says Khatee adding “they consider them a burden.”

Shafeeqa from Qamarwari is orphan. Being well-aware of the fact, she says, “I have no one at home”.

Situation in the male wards is no different. Hilal (name changed), an inmate while introducing himself says, “I have studied in Hanafia College, no in women’s college, no in the University. I have identity card with me, but that is with them (pointing towards hospital management), I study here as well. I live in Dal.”

When asked how he landed in the psychiatric hospital Hilal says, “I am here because I was a drug-addict. Now I have given-up and I take medicines regularly.” As Hilal was speaking, Asif (name changed), another inmate chips in, “there is alchodine and nicotine in drugs as it is in the Kashmiri chai (tea). This is very harmful for health.” “Kal main azad hojaunga” (tomorrow I will be set free)” Asif says, “My parents brought me here.” Asked why, he replies, “kya pata (I do not know) adding “I do what my parents ask me to do but will go home tomorrow and will continue my studies. I will not leave my studies, anyhow. I miss my parents and friends”.He adds, “I want to do business (in fertilizers) once I finish my studies as there is more profit in it. I can speak fluent English, but I do not want to impress others.”

Next to Asif stood another inmate who cried over, “They do not allow me home, I want to go. My younger brother brought me here. I do not know the reason.”

Ninety male inmates from various districts of the valley are kept in four wards of the hospital. “Serious patients are put in a separate ward and when they turn furious they are kept in different cells. More inmates are from rural areas,” says an official of the hospital.

He adds, “They mostly fight over cigarettes. Sometimes patients turn out of control and injections are used to bring them relief. He too agrees that families of these inmates are not supportive.”

Citing an example, he says “Only yesterday, we took a patient home (in hospital vehicle) and dropped him there. Next day early in the morning, the family brought him back” adding “basically, their families fail to provide them medicines (at home) which are otherwise given them free of cost.”

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