Depression and Anxiety among Women: An Analysis of Kashmir Valley

Updated: Apr 5, 2018

Inamul Haq

Ph.D. Research Student, Centre for Research and Studies of Gandhian Thought and Peace, Central Universityof Gujarat, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India

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Mental, physical and social health are the important elements of life that are deeply interwoven and closely interdependent. Mental disorder affects all people of all countries and societies, individuals of all ages, men and women, the rich and poor, rural and urban and so on. In conflict regions, depression and anxiety are very common and disrupts the social, economic and political life of the people. Many people living amidst the rages of conflict suffer from a post-traumatic stress disorder. The valley of Kashmir is a conflicted region between India and Pakistan. Most civilians witnessed war-related traumatic events such as shootings, killings, rape and loss of family's members. Bomb attacks, indiscriminate firings have affected the daily lives of the people. Human rights are abuses in such conflict area, and they are reported in the form of arrests, extra-judicial, loot, abduction, and torture by the Armed forces. High level of violence and mass uprisings are still against this oppression. The ongoing conflict, constant threats, and poor future perspectives put a heavy strain on the natural coping mechanisms of the people of Kashmir. A lot of people suffer from stress, high amounts of psychosocial problems and disorders like anxiety, mood, and post-traumatic disorder are mounting. These psychological problems have also given rise to general health problems like diabetes, cardiac problems, and hypertension. This Paper will highlight as to what extent the conflict has affected the mental health of Kashmiri women from the period of the 1990s.


The state of Jammu and Kashmir is located in the heart of Asia. It is situated between 32.17 and 35.58 degree north latitude and 32.26 and 80.30 degree east longitude. The state of Jammu and Kashmir was formed on 26th October 1947. The state covers an area of 2, 22,236 sq. Km. and is the sixth largest state of India in terms of area. The state of Jammu and Kashmir is surrounded by Himachal Pradesh in its south as well as neighboring countries likePakistan, Afghanistan, and China from west, north and east respectively (Report, 2012). Conflicts in South Asia can be ascribed to four reasons: Firstly, some have their roots in British colonial policies such as divide and rule. Secondly, some conflicts have arisen due to the modernization process in the sub-continent which benefits some and marginalize and exclude others. Thirdly, conflicts are due to the intervention of external countries like Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in early 1980's, and the last being is that some conflicts arise because of limited resources and the struggle for these resources. Kashmir conflict is a complicated and multidimensional one and can fit into the first category (Ganguly, 1996). The political mobilization of the Kashmiri Muslims, deinstitutionalization of Indian politics and the intervention of Pakistan sowed the seeds of discontent in Kashmir (Ibid, 1996). India took repressive measures to deal with the insurgency that created the situation of ‘new war’ in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Mary Kaldor (1998) argues that the ‘new wars’ were basically post-cold war conflicts which differ from the accepted definition of warfare. The main features of these conflicts include human rights abuses, identity issues and the presence of Para-military forces, which lead to displacement of population. Moreover, these conflicts take place in the context of criminality, corruption and administrative failures. Kashmir had a Muslim majority population and was ruled by Mughal-Afghan dynasties. In the nineteenth century, the British gained it from Sikhs after the latter is defeated in the first Anglo-Sikh war (1845-46) and imposed an indemnity on the Sikh government. The Sikhs were not in a position to pay and hence gave Kashmir, Jammu, Ladakh, and Baltistan to British. The Hindu Maharaja Gulab Singh (Dogra) stepped in and agreed to pay the indemnity of seventy-five lakh rupees to the Britishers and the Treaty of Amritsar Was signed (Kaul 2010:43, Dewan, 2008). Thus, the valley of Kashmir witnessed Dogra rule from 1846- 1947and was marked by the alienation of Muslims in Kashmir. The imposition of heavy taxes, capital punishment, and the constant terror was created by the Dogra’s against Kashmiri Muslims (Ahmad, 2010).

On the eve of independence in 1947, there were five hundred and sixty-five princely states in colonial India and were given a choice to merge either with Pakistan or India (Dewan, 2011). Kashmir was one of the largest princely states, and its Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh wanted to remain independent and refused to accede to either state. In 1947, the Maharaja faced an armed revolt by Muslims from Poonch, and the revolt then began to spread to other parts of Jammu and Kashmir. To maintain the status quo, the Maharaja signed a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan. In 1947, the Kashmiri Muslims revolted openly against the oppressions of Maharaja and was the revolt was supported by the tribesmen of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP). In October 1947, the tribesmen captured the several towns and massacred a large number of civilians and advanced to capture Srinagar (summer capital of valley) (Husain, 2009: 1008). To crush the rebellion, the Maharaja sought assistance from the state of India and the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, agreed to send troops to Kashmir on the condition that the state should accede to India. On October 26, 1947,

Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession with India on the condition that Kashmir should be permitted to have its own constitution (Bazaz, 2005).

In January 1966, Tashkent Agreement was signed between India and its neighboring country, Pakistan and both countries decided to solve the Kashmir dispute through peaceful negotiations. However, in 1971, India supported East Pakistan for its independence and another war come into existence between India and Pakistan. In 1972, an agreement was signed, and both countries decided to end their conflicts through bilaterally, and this agreement came to be known as Shimla Agreement (Singh, 2011: 12). The main features of Shimla agreement are that both the countries should respect each other's territorial integrity, sovereignty, political independence and non- interference in each other's internal affairs. Besides it lay emphasis on the cooperative relationship with the special focus on people to people contact and upheld the inviolability of the line of control (LOC) in Jammu and Kashmir (Ministry of External Affairs, 1972).

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