While ordinary people of Kashmir are battling an extraordinary surge in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a recent survey has found that the militants lodged in Srinagar’s Central Jail are relatively free of stress due to their commitment towards religion and their jobs, Ahmad Lateef reports.
For over seven decades, Kashmir has been a festering wound in the South Asia, bringing the two nuclear neighbours – India and Pakistan – to war-like situation against any aberration along the border or within the valley. After a series of controversial decisions by the PDP-BJP government, the Hizb commander Burhan Wani’s killing on July 8 triggered a five-month-long mass uprising in Kashmir in which nearly 100 people were killed, thousands injured, including hundreds were visually impaired in police action.
Post Wani’s death, nearly 60 youth in Kashmir joined militant ranks, mostly from south Kashmir. Sketchy details provided by the families of these ‘new age’ militants reveal they are motivated by the growing influence of religion and injustices, against which Islam calls for jihad.
The conviction for religion makes militants battle hardened and also stress resistant if put behind bars. A Kashmir-based medical research – Psychiatric ailments in inmates of Central jail Srinagar – says the militants have least stress levels than other jail inmates. While stress and other psychiatric disorders of prisoners have been a great concern for the government, the study reveals that only two out of 60 militants in the jail suffer from psychiatric disorders. The researchers attributed the low level of morbidity among militants and political prisoners to “motivation and conviction” for their jobs.
The study was conducted by well-known psychiatrist Dr Altaf Ahmad Malla and a team of psychiatrists of Government Psychiatric Diseases Hospital Srinagar in the overcrowded Central Jail of Srinagar, which has presently over 450 inmates against the intake capacity of 300. The researchers studied 490 inmates for psychiatric morbidity over a period of one year in the central jail and found that 33.06 percent of the inmates were suffering from psychiatric illness.
“Among the 60 militants studied in the jail, just two were suffering from morbidity. One among the two was schizophrenic while as another had stress,” said Dr Malla. Psychiatrists say motivation among militants to fight their enemy keeps them psychologically high. “Militants have high motivation, that is why they have less stress. Their heroic deeds and support from separatists outside keep them fit and psychologically sound,” they said.
However, Dr Malla said, the high-stress levels among militants in other jails could not be ruled out. The stress level was high among drug addicts and those facing the life imprisonments, he said. The research said that 18.7 percent developed morbidity after incarceration while as 55.7 percent of the prisoners had a history of substance use prior to incarceration.
“Major depressive episode was the common diagnosis with a prevalence of 23.5 percent while as mania and psychotic disorders were seen in 2 percent and 1.8 percent respectively,” reveals the research paper. Deprivation and staying away from relatives was the main reason of morbidity among the inmates, the study notes. The researchers concluded that there was significant psychiatric morbidity in jail inmates. “The high rate of psychiatric disorders argues for the use of improved psychiatric services to the prison inmates.”
The Srinagar Central jail houses some hardcore foreign militants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries, and also some persons with secessionist ideology are lodged there. While the Indo-Pak armies and politicians are fighting over the lines drawn on the map of Kashmir, the people in the valley are caught in the crossfire and bear the brunt of the prolonged violent conflict.
As the violent conflict in Kashmir sees no end, a significant proportion of the population has become the victim of stress and other psychiatric disorders.
Psychiatrists estimate that the lifetime prevalence of traumatic experience among inhabitants in Kashmir is as high as 58.69 percent. Although studies are not available to compare pre-conflict period to post-conflict state of mental health, the OPD records in various hospitals indicate a tremendous surge of mental health issues in Kashmir.
A study conducted by noted psychiatrist Dr Mushtaq Ahmad Margoob has revealed that an average of 6 people per day would seek the psychiatric treatment from the Psychiatric Disease Hospital Srinagar in 1990 and this increased to an average of 250-300 a day during 2000. The OPD records show that 775 people attended Kashmir’s lone mental healthcare hospital – Psychiatric Diseases Hospital- Srinagar in 1985.
The number has increased to nearly 2 lakh in 2016 in two state hospitals including the SMHS Hospital and Psychiatric Disease Hospital. The phenomenal increase in psychological problems was also indicated by tremendous rise in the number of psychiatric patients attending the Government Psychiatric Hospital in Srinagar. A mental health survey by Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) has found that 41 percent of the population in Kashmir suffers from depression, while 19 percent are afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. The PTSD is a serious psychiatric condition that often develops as a result of traumatic events such as violent conflict, accidents, and disasters.