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.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hope for People With Disabilities

An editorial in the Rising Kashmir draws public attention to people suffering from physical and mental disabilities

Don’t Ignore Them

In a conflict-ridden place like Kashmir, many issues go unnoticed till they assume grave propositions. There has been a two-fold increase in the number of physically challenged persons in the valley over the last 10 years. The armed conflict has also spurred mental disorders, prompting authorities to count the number of persons having mental illnesses in Census 2011.

According to Census 2001, there were around three lakh physically challenged persons across the state, which has increased to over seven lakh during the last 10 years. The increase in disability cases is attributed to firing, blasts, street protests and other such incidents. Given the situation in the valley in the last three years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of persons rendered handicap in police and CRPF action. Persons who survive bullet and pellet injuries add to the ever- growing list. There has also been a surge in the mental disorder cases in the past two decades. Some non-governmental organizations like Medicos Sans Frontiers (MSF) have been doing their bit to help the people suffering from anxiety, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders. According to MSF, 30 per cent of patients in the valley are suffering from anxiety and depression, 18 per cent are suffering from mental illness as a result of physical health problems, 15 per cent are mood related disorders and rest are suffering from psychological instability, domestic problems and trauma. Among the affected lot, 60 per cent are women. Furthermore, during its studies, MSF has discovered that 50 per cent of these cases have trauma background and in one way or the other related to conflict.

There has also been a subsequent increase in the mental illness. While the physically challenged persons have long been complaining about the government apathy, there has also been no effort on part of the authorities to address the causes leading to increase in the mental illnesses. Even the packages announced by New Delhi from time to time have nothing to offer to these hapless people. The preoccupation of the government to maintain law and order in the valley, particularly in the last three years, has meant that many vulnerable sections of the society continue to suffer. We get to hear the ministers and officials talk at length about the problems faced by physically disabled and the schemes meant for their welfare on occasions like World Disability Day. Such functions also witness token gestures of giving prosthetic limbs, wheel chairs or cheques to some disabled persons. While their inclusion in the census enumeration is believed to benefit the physically challenged persons and those with mental illnesses, the government must follow it up with measures to alleviate their sufferings. For instance, it can introduce Mental Health Schemes to improve the psychological condition of people in the valley. The government keeps claiming that improved health sector is its priority. Let it also work for the betterment of persons suffering from physical and mental disabilities.

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