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9067Kashmiris fighting a new battle

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    Jun 1, 2008
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      Kashmiris fighting a new battle

      SRINAGAR, May 1: Violence has fallen in Kashmir, but people are
      starting to show signs of serious trauma after nearly 20 years of
      struggle against New Delhi's occupation, according to interviews with

      Increasing numbers of people are complaining of mental health
      problems, say doctors in the beautiful region, known as the
      `Switzerland of the East' before the freedom movement started in 1989.

      "There's an alarming mental health crisis," leading psychologist
      Arshid Hussain said as he ushered into his office at the
      government-run Kashmir Psychiatry Hospital a woman whose husband was
      recently killed by gunmen.

      "The violence has dropped but the flow of people seeking psychiatric
      help gets higher each day," he said. "I'm getting an increasing number
      (of people) complaining of insomnia, nightmares, anxiety and
      unexplained pains."

      The number of daily violence-related deaths involving soldiers,
      civilians and militants now stands at two, still high but down from 10
      a day in 2001. Part of that decline has been attributed to a
      slow-moving peace process that began four years ago between Pakistan
      and India.

      "Thousands of people have suffered trauma because they've seen
      killings, explosions and other forms of violence," said Dr Pervez
      Masoodi, who is associated with a small government-run hospital in
      Chadoora, a 45-minute drive from Srinagar.

      Casual conversations with Kashmiris quickly turn to stories of
      relatives killed, of near-misses in bomb attacks and anonymous
      threatening telephone calls.

      Experts say they are particularly concerned about children, as many
      parents are reluctant to bring them in for counselling in case
      neighbours find out.

      Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the region's main Muslim cleric and leader of a
      moderate All Parties Hurriyat Conference, said he had noted people,
      especially the young, seemed more tense.

      "It's difficult preaching to an angry audience, to bring them some
      kind of solace," said the mirwaiz, whose father was shot dead in 1990
      by unidentified attackers.

      "We need to find a political solution to the Kashmir dispute to end
      all these traumas," he said.—AFP



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