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.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Orphans of Destiny

Salman finds victims of conflict suffering from trauma, Stress related Diseases

(Mr. Salman Nizami, 25, was born in Banihal tehsil of District Ramban. He completed his graduate degree in mass communication and journalism, and joined journalism in 2004. He began his professional life at The OUTLOOK magazine as a columnist, and then started writing for Greater Kashmir, Kashmir Times, Times of India, The Hindu, Asian Age, Statesman, Rising Kashmir , JK Reporter. Mr. Nizami later joined SAHARA television in New Delhi as Desk Editor, and rose to the position of Group Editor of The Rastriya Sahara. He is currently working as a Editor-in-Chief of The Revolution newspaper published from Jammu and Kashmir, Sahara television as Desk Editor and Resident Editor of MID-DAY covering Upper North India including J&K. He is also active with UNICEF India and the Hungary World (NGO) as Media advisor. In that role, he has travelled widely investigating on new developments in the media industry, taking a special interest in child problems including labour, marriage, poverty, education, etc. He is one of the first journalists to research and write extensively about the child growth in Jammu and Kashmir.)

Children of Conflict: Survey Finds 2,14,000 Orphans in JK

Tens of thousands of orphans are suffering from trauma and other stress related diseases including depression, sleeplessness and nausea due to the ongoing conflict in Jammu and Kashmir.

This is evident from a survey conducted by a non-governmental child welfare organization last year. The survey conducted by Save the children has found the presence of at least 2, 14,000 orphans in the state.

Anantnag district of south Kashmir has the maximum number of orphans followed by two districts of north Kashmir-Baramulla and Kupwara. The survey has also depicted the poor financial conditions of the orphans that have forced them to quit studies.

According to the survey, the proportion of children orphaned due to conflict is higher in Anantnag (56%), Baramulla (33 %), and Kupwara (25 %) districts. The survey has also observed that 37 percent of the children were orphaned due to conflict while 55 were orphaned due to natural deaths of parents and 8 percent due to other reasons.

The survey has observed that a large number of children drop out from higher secondary classes, though this is not clearly coming out with respect to primary and secondary segments. While 38 percent orphans are in this age group, only 2 percent of them are undergoing higher secondary education. Only 20 percent of the orphans were attending the same school as the other children of the same age in the same household, implying a less than equal treatment of orphans.

"Around 10 percent of all the orphans are engaged as child labourers of which 3 percent are engaged in paid work and remaining 7 percent in unpaid work. However 7 percent of all households said that taking care of orphans was an economic burden for them and another 4 percent faced other problems because of taking care of orphans such as threats from state and non-state actors," the survey says.

The main reason cited by the children for dropping out of school include poverty or foster parents being unable to afford their education, the other reasons include children being afraid of leaving their homes or school being far away. Stress or trauma in attending school was cited as another reason for dropping out.

"Among the orphans attending schools a large number said that the main distraction in school was that they had worries about families, noise of explosions during conflict and intimidating presence of troops. Around one third of all the orphans had faced emotional stress during the conflict," the survey says.

"While 40 percent felt confused, had a deep sense of lack of control over events, despair and skepticism about the future, 32 percent said that their anxiousness was triggered by sudden loud noises or seeing fatigue/battle uniforms; they had also faced anxiety, sadness and anger after seeing family, friends and neighbours being abused by the militants or the army," it adds

On the impact of the conflict on the young minds, the survey has found that about two fifth of all the orphans (39%) often complained of headache and 29 % had fever occasionally, while 9% had muscle pain and few also felt nausea (4%) and cramps (3%) . The survey found that many orphans experienced various symptoms of trauma - primarily as a result of conflict and the physical and social environment that they were experiencing. Forty Percent of all the orphans showed signs of nervousness 21 percent were very silent, around 20 Percent had depression, 16 Percent reportedly had mood swings, 21 percent were very impatient 12 percent complained of sleeplessness and irritability and 11 percent had withdrawal symptoms.

"On the whole around 5 percent of all the orphans had faced some kinds of physical abuse such as having guns pointed at them, being openly threatened by militants or the army /police being accused of providing support to the fighting sides and being to capture parents or as human shields harassed because of that being illegally detained and interrogated being forced to live outside the house or in hiding (including in forest without any protection being physically assaulted and hurt, being used as bait to capture parents or as human shields)," the survey states.

The overall percentage of the under-18 population of the sample, a crucial indicator for the validity of this study on orphans is 41, which is very close to the corresponding state figure of 42.6.

The socio-demographic pattern of the households surveyed in this study reveals that the average age of the house hold members in the study is young (26.3 years). They predominantly profess Muslim faith (86%) and belong to the general category in terms of caste/ tribe status (71%). Fourty percent of the sample population is engaged in agriculture and non- agricultural work while 23 percent are students.

"The average monthly income of individuals ranges from Rs 1800 (Anantnag) to Rs 5000 (Rajouri). Gainful employment is reportedly low in conflict prone districts," the survey states.

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