In occupied Kashmir, the current phase of stringent curbs imposed by India in the name of preventing coronavirus spread has only escalated the sense of siege-mentality for the lockdown-ridden people of the territory.
Shagufta, 18, of the Rajouri Kadal area of Srinagar said that she had witnessed the 2016 and 2019 lockdowns, but to some extent, that besieged life was bearable. “But I don’t know why this present lockdown feels a different experience,” she said.
After a certain point in the current pandemic lockdown, Shagufta couldn’t take her besieged routine anymore. Feeling vexed, she started raising her pitch against her parents, and refused to come out of her room for hours together. In seclusion, she kept thinking of her classmates with whom she shared the last normal class before August 04, 2019.
“Although we’re not new to lockdowns, but I and my classmates are finding it hard to adjust to these repeated restrictions now,” said Shagufta. “Such a cursed life makes you captive in your own home,” she added.
Occupied Kashmir’s ace mental specialist, Dr Mushtaq Margoob, reacting to Shagufta’s situation, said living in such an atmosphere of perpetual siege gives rise to besieged minds. Due to lack of freedom, he continued, such minds have been seen in other conflict-prone areas around the world.
“When a population is confronted with an insecure and uncertain situation, this troubled mentality seeps into almost every human endeavor,” he said, adding, “It impacts psychological as well as behavioural social patterns and practices.”
Human beings are supposed to have some sort of control and some feeling about their future, but in a conflict situation, perception of world changes, he maintained. “Kashmiris are already overburdened. And when the population is locked up constantly, they’re being deprived of mobilising their pent up emotions with their peer group, neighbours or relations,” he added.
Another Srinagar-based psychiatrist, Dr Arif Maghribi, said life under such a siege tremendously affects every aspect of life.
He pointed out, “Some people recover, but many do not, even after 20 years. Some cases change into major depressive disorders.”
Pertinently, according to the 2015-survey conducted by Doctors without Borders, nearly 1.8 million adults (45% of the adult population) in the Kashmir Valley show symptoms of significant mental distress.
Professor Noor Baba, a senior faculty at the Central University of Kashmir, said siege mentality, has become a way of life in occupied Kashmir for years now.
Kashmiris had been quarantined for a very long time, he said. “If people were expecting relaxation, in our case it got more reinforced after the COVID-19 situation,” professor Baba added.—KMS