The Story of Healing Kashmir
You could say that the most lasting damage of war is to the mind. In the case of the disputed Kashmir Valley, in North India, twenty years of fighting has caused inordinate long-term mental damage to a high percentage of the population.
In 1989 a separatist insurgency erupted in The Valley, demanding independence from India. The Indian military response was draconian, and the fighting soon became entrenched as Pakistan backed, trained and armed many of the insurgent groups that were fighting in The Valley. This conflict has moved far beyond its own geographical borders, and many jihadi groups were formed in order fight in the name of ‘freedom for Kashmir’. Some of those groups now have an international agenda, as was witnessed during the attacks on hotels and public places in Mumbai in November 2008.
Across twenty years of watching this conflict, and beyond the politics and khaki uniforms that are so omnipresent in Kashmir, it has become increasingly apparent that there has been the rapid and pandemic deterioration of mental health in the state. When the conflict began in 1989 there was one psychiatric hospital in The Valley. The doctors who were practicing at The Government Psychiatric Diseases Hospital said then that they would have perhaps one patient a day. By 1994, five years into the conflict, the doctors were seeing up to 300 patients a day, around 80,000 patients a year.