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, March 11, 2012

Data About Violence Against Women

Zeenat opens a Pandora's Box ahead of the International Women's Day (March 8) with disturbing facts and figures, followed by a news item about rising suicide rates among women

(Ms. Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil, 27, was born in Srinagar, Kashmir. She did her schooling from King George (Mumbai) and later Cambridge (New Delhi), and received her Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Kashmir in 2008. Presently, she is also pursuing her second Masters degree in Mass Communications through the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). In 1998, she began her career as a freelance journalist with leading national newspapers and simultaneously joined ‘Fazil Kashmiri Publications’ as Editor and Publisher, and is also an editor of the ‘Focus’. Ms. Fazil has written a book on Mass Media and Linguistics (2006), and ‘Falcons of Paradise'(2009), a reference book contains 100 Eminent Personalities of J&K starting from 14th century till date. After working for ‘Daily Etaalat’- a Srinagar based Newspaper in 2007-2008; she joined ‘Daily Kashmir Images’ as a Senior Correspondent by the end of 2008. She is also currently associated with ‘Charkha’, a foundation that highlights the developmental concerns of marginalized section of Kashmiri society particularly in rural areas and to draw out perspectives on women through their writings. Ms. Fazil is also associated with ‘Interchurch Peace Council Netherlands’ which is intensely involved in several conflict areas such as in Kashmir. In 2009, she joined the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA). She has received numerous awards for her meritorious contribution in the field of literature. Her interests are reading, writing, poetry, music, travel,and gender related topics.)

Kashmir: Violence Against Women Goes up by 22.1 Percent

Srinagar: Despite having a strong backing of law to check discriminatory practices against the fair sex in Kashmir, violence against women continues and in fact has shown an increase of 22.1 percent in 2011 in comparison to 2010.

As the world gears up to observe International Women’s Day on March 08, the data compiled by the J&K Police Crime branch reveals that in past two years, it has registered 4066 cases of crimes against women. It includes1797 cases of molestation, 187 rape cases, one gang rape case, 1279 cases of kidnapping and abduction of woman /girl, 426 eve teasing cases, one case of dowry death, 177 cases of cruelty at the hands of husbands, 195 suicide cases, four cases under Dowry Restraints Prohibition Act, two cases of suppression of immoral trafficking.

In comparison, only 1832 such incidents were recorded thus showing an increase of 405 incidents of violence against women in Kashmir.

Gulshan Akhtar, Station House Officer (SHO), Women’s Police Station, Rambagh
Srinagar, says the dragging of feet by the women to go for legal recourse against their tormentors has led to unprecedented increase in domestic violence in Kashmir.

“As per surveys and information we receive, domestic violence in Kashmir is increasing and thousands of women bear it silently. Unfortunately, most of them are reluctant even to lodge complaints owing to the social stigma perceived being attached to it,” Akhtar opines.

A sizeable chunk of them don’t want to register their complaints to avoid legal hassles and other cumbersome procedures, adds she.

“From 2006 till date, out of 166 registered cases, challans were produced against accused in 138 while as 39 are under investigation. Most of the cases that we received were related to domestic violence or matrimonial disputes and through counseling, we were able to resolve around 650 cases of domestic violence and that too without registering any of them”, informs Akhtar.

However, social activist and lawyer, Abdul Rashid Hanjura sees other things also adding to the problem. “Human rights violations in Kashmir are in direct disregard of the principles of international human rights and humanitarian law and no attention has been paid towards the women having been victims of such crimes,” he says.

“During past two decades, Kashmir is witnessing unprecedented crimes against women which many attribute to the ongoing political turmoil. Besides incidents of rape, molestation and domestic violence, particularly at the hands of husbands and in-laws, have seen a dreadful upsurge”, Hanjura adds.

“What aggravates the situation is that many such incidents go unreported, thus guilty get no punishment. Even if reported due to low (negligible) conviction rate, criminals dare committing crimes unabashedly because they know stringent action will not be taken against them”, says he adding that more than 10,000 cases of rape come in the court for hearing annually.

To get the crime graph down, he suggests amendments in Acts like Dowry Restraint Act and Child Marriage Act so that stringent action is taken against the guilty.

State Police Chief, Kuldeep Khoda told Kashmir Images, “We are aware about most cases not getting registered in police stations not only because our administration mechanism is weak but for other reasons as well.”

In order to curb crime against women, Khoda said that three women police stations
(Srinagar, Jammu, and Udampur) had been set up in the state and the department intended to set up such police stations in all the districts.

“This would provide women with greater access to get their grievances registered and attended for speedy action”, he said.

When asked why the amendments are not being made in certain laws, he said, “We have already written to the state government about it and I am sure soon something concrete will come up.”

Suicide Rate Among Women on the Rise

Srinagar: Over 10 suicide attempts were reported last month in the Valley alone, giving a snapshot of the roughly 17,000 suicides that have been reported in the past 21 years, experts say.

In studies conducted by B.A. Dabla, a sociologist at the University of Kashmir, it was revealed that there has been an average of 227 suicides been reported in 27 months in Kashmir, based on medical reports.

The study showed that 62 percent of all suicide cases involve females. Youth in the age group of 17-26 are found most likely to take their own lives, although teenagers as young as 13 years old have also committed suicide over the last two decades.

The National Crime Bureau Records of India states that Kashmir has a higher suicide rate than the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, since one person in the Valley commits suicide every day.

Experts believe these numbers are conservative estimates, as media reports and police and hospital records do not present the real scenario of just how rampant suicide has become in Kashmir.

"The actual rate is higher than what is being reported. Because of the social stigma (and shame attached to the act), people do not report suicide attempts or death," psychiatrist Mushtaq Margoob says.

Suicide cases go largely unreported in rural areas here.

"It is an unfortunate fact that the suicide rate is higher than what we know and (steadily) mounting," Margoob said.

With the increase have come even more "efficient" ways of committing suicide. People in Kashmir would previously threaten their families with suicide, without actually doing themselves any harm. They would jump out of first floor windows or slash their hands, which while harmful, still left them alive.

"But now, the most deadly substances are being used for suicides."

In urban areas, hanging, jumping into rivers and consuming poison are some of the most common methods. In villages pesticides are often used. Women commonly set themselves ablaze during suicide attempts.

There are several reasons for this surging rate. In addition to the insurgency, the level of life-or-death desperation in the Valley has been linked to the drastic rise of psychiatric disorders, which currently affects roughly 800,000 people across Kashmir.

"Impulse control disorders, psychiatric disorders, materialist lifestyles, psycho-social and socio- economic problems are some of the major causes for the increase," Mushtaq says.
Depression, panic disorder and anxiety are all linked to suicides as well.

Independent psychologist A.G. Madhosh categorizes the causes of suicides in Kashmir into social, psychological and anticipatory. "Social" causes are mostly linked to family pressure, marital status, career, strained relationships and the inability to compete at social levels.

"In urban areas, employment and education are compounding factors," Madhosh says.

Amongst teenagers, poor impulse control, examination stress, love affairs and parental pressures are found to be prominent reasons for suicides. Experts suggest adoption of a practical system of education, counselling and religious education as a mean of prevention.

(Kashmir Monitor News Desk)

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