Children of Conflict: Kashmiri kids show signs of deep mental scars


The longstanding armed conflict is affecting the psyche of Kashmiri children.Some kids have resorted to toy Kalashnikovs and shown symptoms of extreme paranoia and intermittent explosive disorder (extremely volatile aggression) and even depression. Habitual of experiencing irregular schools, frequent shutdowns and internet outage deprive them of healthy childhood.“We want to come to school even on public holidays because we get more than enough holidays on a regular basis. We come with sleeping bags sometimes when the situation is adverse in the Valley or when the gunfight is going on. We stay in the school premises. All these efforts go in vain when schools can’t even conduct examination on time,” says Sabreen, a 7th grader at Shah-e-Hamdam Leaders School, Siligam, Anantnag.Childhood is the most cherished part of one’s life, but in Kashmir it seems to have lost its essence. Normal kids, as young as six to eight year old, sound more like young millennial constantly asking about Azadi. “What is the government doing in Delhi? Dictating the Army to kill us all? We want freedom from this,” says Husain, a 2nd grader at the Shah-e-Hamdam Leaders School.The resentment has been reinforced further after the 2016 uprising with more children looking upto slain militant commander Burhan Wani as their role model. “I want to be both Salman Khan and Burhan Wani of Kashmir,” says a six-year-old student.While in the mainland India, primary school children have little or no idea about politics, Kashmiri children are particularly driven toward the politics.“A few years back, one of the professors of AMU (Aligarh Muslim University) had put up Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s picture in his room, Indian media made quite a scene of this incident. I want to ask India if they are allowed to put up pictures of their ideals like Gandhi in their offices and homes, then why are we Kashmiris not allowed to put up picture of Burhan Wani?” says Shafqat, a 5th grader at the school.According to Mallika Narang, a Delhi-based Psychologist, childhood is the time to develop a sound mind and a healthy environment is a prerequisite for it.“An environment full of violence and conflict leads to a sense of mistrust and lack of faith in the system. Such an environment can also lead to resorting to violence as the only way to resolve conflicts,” she says.Narang believes Kashmiri children, who are brought up in a conflict-ridden environment, have higher chances of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, phobia and issues pertaining to aggression.“Children brought up in such an environment is only resulting in a generation which is developing a conflict within, leading to a more difficult personal journey ahead,” she says.According to a Chennai-based Psychologist, Purwai Pravah, regression analyses has revealed that witnessing violence and victimisation prior to age 10 predicted delinquency and violent behaviours.“Exposure of violence to children has been associated with the development of conduct problems among the children,” she says. “Young children in Kashmir are exposed to a variety of environmental variables that place them at risk of anti-social behaviour. In order to protect children’s psychological state from the effects of political unrest in the state, the government should at least take some measures and set up counselling centres in schools. These counselling centres would help children channelize their exposure of violence into a relatively healthy mechanism,” Pravah says.