How COVID-19 is adding to the misery in occupied Kashmir after India’s clampdown: report


PAHOO: The novel coronavirus has added to the miseries of the residents of India-occupied Kashmir, who have already been tortured by the Indian police and army in the clampdown imposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi since last August.

A New York Times report has highlighted how the newly imposed nationwide lockdown, enforced by the Indian government  in recent weeks to fight the coronavirus, has worsened the situation in occupied Kashmir’s towns and cities.

Police have blocked roads and streets with coils of glistening concertina wire and if the residents try to get out of their homes they are abused and beaten up.

The publication wrote: “Eight months after India revoked Kashmir’s semiautonomous status and brought the region fully under its authority, doctors here say a state of hopelessness has morphed into a severe psychological crisis. Mental health workers say Kashmir is witnessing an alarming increase in instances of depression, anxiety and psychotic events”.

According to the newspaper, local medical professionals say they are seeing a rise in suicides and an increase in already disturbingly high rates of domestic abuse in the disturbed area.

Doctors and researchers say the occupied valley, with its majority-Muslim population fighting for its independence, has few resources to cope. Before the events of recent months, decades of violence between Indian security forces and the Kashmiri people had taken a physical and mental toll on the region and its people, according to New York Times.

“Nearly 1.8 million Kashmiris, or nearly half of all adults, have some form of mental disorder, Doctors Without Borders estimated after surveying 5,600 households in 2015. Nine of 10 have experienced conflict-related traumas. The figures are much higher than in India,” said the report.

The paper described an incident of a Kashmiri woman, Sara Begum, whose house was raided on August 3 by some masked policemen. They “barged into her home, badly roughed up her 28-year-old son”, Fayyaz Ahmad Mir, and took him away.

Fayaz  was “one of thousands of civilians arrested or detained by order of the Indian government after it moved forcefully to cement its control over Kashmir”, noted New York Times.

“The clampdown has disrupted daily life, with many people feeling besieged and afraid to leave their homes,” said the publication.

The US newspaper says that “years of strife left a generation traumatised. […] Now the battle against the coronavirus has further isolated and scarred a people with little access to help”.

A psychiatrist appointed by the government, Dr. Majid Shafi recalled that he had seen a 100 patients a week last year. Now, he sees more than 500.

The valley has fewer than 60 psychiatrists, in all.

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