Suicide trend spreading at rapid rate among women in Kashmir

By Mushtaq ul Haq Ahmad

The Valley of Kashmir has seen many upheavals and downfalls in the last twenty years of armed conflict and turmoil giving rise to new catastrophes and calamities. Suicide is also one such trend that has been taking its roots in the Kashmiri society and what is the cause of more concern is that this is spreading at a rapid rate among womenfolk of Kashmir.

Support TwoCircles

Suicide is an age-old phenomenon occurring in all societies, cultures and civilizations. A number of hypothesis, vague presuppositions, theories and causes have been put forward to explain this complex problem known as suicide. What makes a person to destroy his own dearest and unique asset? For its preservation he can hand over his entire material possession only to safeguard and ensure this entity known as Life. What compels him to destroy it that too with his own hands? It is for the safeguard of this very priority and right to life that Status Quo in State of Nature was replaced and gradually evolved to the Statecraft of the present day. None of the theories put forward can explain in toto the causes of suicide as they differ from region to region, people to people as well as from one class to other.

Emile Durkheim, the French Sociologist, is one of the Pioneers in the field study of Suicide. His book Suicide (1897) is an analysis of a phenomenon regarded as pathological intended to throw light on Suicide, which threatens modern industrial societies that is “Anomie”. Suicide is an indication of disorganization of both individual and society. Increasing number of suicides clearly indicates something wrong somewhere in the social system of the concerned society. He divides suicides into three types:

1. Egoist Suicide: It is a product of relatively weak group integration. It takes place because of extreme loneliness and out of excess individualism.

2. Altruistic Suicide: It is a product of over integration of the individual into his group. This type of suicide takes place in the form of a sacrifice in which an individual ends his life by heroic means to promote a cause or an ideal which is dear to him.

3. Anomic Suicide: It is the type that follows catastrophic social changes.

The Valley of Kashmir too has seen many upheavals and downfalls since the last twenty years of armed conflict and turmoil giving rise to new catastrophes and calamities. Suicide is also one such trend that has been taking its roots in our society and what is the cause of more concern is that this is spreading at a rapid rate among womenfolk of Kashmir. It is what I came to know from the proceedings of a seminar on “The Alarming Suicidal Tendencies Among Young Kashmiri Women….Causes and Remedies” organized on 7 th November 2009 by Shama Foundation, an NGO working among college women. The speakers comprised of a wide galaxy of social strata from Doctors to Psychiatrists, Legal Luminaries to Islamic Scholars as well as from Social Activists to Students and Media Men.

Dr Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi, an Islamic Scholar and Social Activist of great repute who also happens to be among the Board trustees of Shama Foundation, conducted the proceedings of the Programme. He in his inaugural speech deliberated and supplied a wealth of statistics and research in the form of case studies of Suicides in Kashmir. By his accurate acumen he very well argued that the suicidal tendencies among the Kashmiris especially among the women have increased since a decade.

Prof Nazir Mushtaq, in his well-research paper, argued that the data regarding suicides isn’t correct as only a few cases are reported. He even cautioned about the fact that among women it is mostly para-suicide as they are attempting suicide but not completing it. He declassified some myths regarding suicide and very well described that these attempts of suicide among women are a cry for help and these suicidal tendencies are debarred and kept at bay among women mostly due to two reasons:

1. Religion of Islam shuns this practice

2. Motherhood

Then he described the process of prevention in three phases: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary

Noted columnist Aijaz Ul Haq in his speech raised some questions regarding suicide in Kashmir and compared it with the state of Maharashtra and the city of Bangalore where the suicides among farmers are too common in the former, while as in the latter it is among the neo-rich, thus describing the two facets of this problem which in Maharashtra is due to poverty and in Bangalore due to the desire for more materialism. Then he concluded that Kashmir is fortunate enough that the problem hasn’t escalated to such an extent. He even offered solution to curtail its development in the society by a philosophic Paradigm of Motivation and De-Motivation.

Zarief Ahmad Zarief lamented about the traditional social norms, customs, cultural ethos and religious fervor present in the Kashmiri society which has now been lost in the blind race of cut throat competition and materialism. This unique culture offered a check against these kinds of evils from taking root in the society.

Dr Mushtaq Siddiqui also deliberated on the theme of the topic and presented a wealth of information regarding suicides.

Justice Bashir Ahmad Kirmani in his long speech described a number of evils taking root in the Kashmiri society and described suicide as a multi-pronged problem which can’t be looked upon independent sans society. He very aptly argued that Kashmiris have passed through various dark phases in history but have never resorted to a cowardly act as Society but always fought bravely against the adverse situations.

The conclusion of the seminar was that the woman always had been the victim of male hegemony and patriarchy and even the present age of progressive liberalism and advancement of scientific technology too haven’t offered any solace to her as she has to cope with both the domestic and office chores which at many times she finds difficult to manage. Also, the traditional Joint Family System is breaking, parent-child relationship is under stress and the sacred teacher-student bond is all together missing, so all these factors culminate into increasing rate of suicides.

Though the speakers debated a number of preventive measures which if opted for would curb this menace and keep it from turning into an epidemic in our society. The need is to find solution to this multi-dimensional problem which in future would be eating away the very vitals of our society. The need of the hour is also to do a thorough research on the causes of suicides as well as comparatively analyze suicide rates among working women and homemakers, among married and unmarried women, among literate and illiterate ones, among childless and child rearing ones. This kind of inter-disciplinary approach would certainly help in further understanding and remedying the disease. The others who spoke on the occasion include Dr Parveen Akhtar Pandit, Principal, College Of Education, cartoonist Shagufta Khalidi, Dr Aijaz Aziz and Ghulam Muhammad Dug.