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“Conflict in Kashmir: Psychosocial consequences on children” published in D. Sibnath (ed.), Child Safety, Welfare and Well-being: Issues and Challenges, Springer India, pp.83-93 (ISBN 978-81-322-2424-2) DOI 10.1007/978-81-322-2425-9.

Authors:
  • Shree Guru Gobind Singh Tricentenary University
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Book Title Child Safety, Welfare and Well-being
Series Title
Chapter Title Conflict in Kashmir: Psychosocial Consequences on Children
Copyright Year 2015
Copyright HolderName Springer India
Corresponding Author Family Name Khan
Particle
Given Name Waheeda
Prefix
Suffix
Division Department of Psychology
Organization Jamia Millia Islamia
Address New Delhi, 110025, India
Email profwkhan@gmail.com
Abstract Armed conflicts are no longer fought on well-defined battlefields, but in and around communities. As a
result, communities suffer enormous material damage, such as losses of homes, schools, livelihoods, health
facilities, and other infrastructure. War and violence not only disrupt social cohesion, but wreck the very
foundation of communities. The burden of this social transformation fall disproportionately on children,
who are defined under international law as people under 18 years of age and who comprise almost half the
population in the war-torn countries. In many armed conflicts, particularly in the protracted ones that last a
decade or more, children may grow up with violence as a constant part of their daily lives and have no
reference point for conceptualizing peace. Violence affected Kashmir is not an exception. Since the
initiation of armed conflict in Kashmir in 1989, many transformations at the micro and macro level have
been evident with disastrous consequences on women and children. The nature of the Kashmir conflict is
such that the exposure to actual armed conflict is limited, but its effects on the lives of children and their
families are enormous in terms of repression, loss of security, income and service access, disrupted
schooling, displacement, physical and psychological traumas among others. This paper brings into focus
the wretched condition of children due to the armed conflict in Kashmir. Their protection needs are
enormous and should be addressed with the utmost care and attention.
Keywords (separated by '-') Children - Conflict - Kashmir - Psychosocial
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Chapter 7
Conflict in Kashmir: Psychosocial
Consequences on Children
Waheeda Khan
© Springer India 2015
S. Deb (ed.), Child Safety, Welfare and Well-being,
DOI 10.1007/978-81-322-2425-9_7
Introduction
Violence, abuse, neglect of children is common; they are abused and neglected by
their parents or other caregivers everywhere in the world. But true extent of such
things is not easy to measure as it is less reported, varies from place to place and
is context specific. Relation is also observed between conflict and worse condition
of such children. As with violence against intimate partners, child abuse includes
physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, as well as neglect. Probably the broad-
est assessment of this statement is the data on physical violence compiled by the
Innocent Research Centre for the UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence
against Children (2006), which led to an estimate of between 500 million and 1.5
billion children experiencing violence annually. Reliable data on non-fatal child
abuse is scarce, but studies from various countries suggest that children below the
age of 15 years are frequently victims of abuse or neglect. In most places, boys are
the victims of beatings and physical punishment more often than girls, while girls
are at higher risk of infanticide, sexual abuse, neglect, and being forced into prosti-
tution. Children who face abuse and neglect appear to be associated with increased
rates of mood disorders and anxiety problems. The strongest association was with
post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Depression and withdrawal symptoms were common among children as young as
of 3 year old, who experienced emotional, physical, and environmental neglect
(Dubowitz et al. 2002). Other psychological and emotional conditions associated
with abuse and neglect include panic disorder, dissociative disorders, Attention
W. Khan (*)
Department of Psychology, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi 110025, India
e-mail: profwkhan@gmail.com
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Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, anger, PTSD, and reactive
attachment disorder (Teicher 2000).
The condition of children is worsening in states of armed conflict and Kashmir
is no exception. The impact of conflict in Kashmir is such that the exposure to
actual armed conflict is limited but, the detrimental effects are in terms of repres-
sion, loss of security, income and service access, disrupted schooling, displace-
ment, military harassment and other forms are visible in the lives of children and
their families (Wessells 1998). Since the initiation of armed conflict in Kashmir,
it has undergone many transformations at the micro and macro levels, with major
implications for women and children. The impact has major consequences on the
survival, development, mental health and overall well being of children and ado-
lescents (Khan and Ghilzai 2002). The major problems that children are suffering
from armed conflict in Kashmir are presented under the following headings:
Social Disruption
Some of the environmental threats to children commonly associated with con-
flict include displacement from homeland, family dispersal, separation and dis-
cord, destitution, loss of service access and social interaction, and the presence of
military personnel. Usually a number of military camps are found to be located
near schools in Kashmir which create a threatening atmosphere for students and
teachers alike, particularly for females who fear sexual harassment etc. Often the
disruption occurs in Kashmir during the times of combat and children somehow
manage to leave their village and remain in their relative’s place till the situation
improves.
Civil and Political Violations
The close presence of large numbers of security personnel often leads to human
rights abuse, and much more than this, it entails the militarization of society, the
strain of life under constant vigilance, restriction of movement, frequent harass-
ment, and intimidation. Check-points, surveillance operations, interrogations,
search operations in homes and places of work, restrictions on the press and activ-
ists all undermine normal interaction and community life in many conflict regions
(Machel 2001).
In Kashmir also, civilians resent frequent searches and intimidation by the
security forces. They feel angry about arbitrary change in laws by the military per-
sonnel and their counter-insurgency operations. Such happenings create a sense
of mistrust, insecurity, and helplessness in the lives of common people and their
children. A study conducted by Jong et al. (2008) in Kashmir showed that almost
half of the respondents (48.1 %) mentioned that they felt safe only occasionally
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7 Conflict in Kashmir and Its Impact on Children
or never, and they had to suffer crackdowns, frisking by security forces, round-
up raids, damage to property, burning of houses, mistreatment, humiliation, and
threats. It was found that nearly one in ten people (9.4 %) lost one or more mem-
bers of their nuclear family because of violence. Almost 11.6 % interviewees men-
tioned that they had been victims of sexual violence since 1989. People dealt with
stress by isolating themselves (22.3 %) or becoming aggressive (16 %). In another
study, Jong et al. (2008) reported frequent direct confrontations with violence
since the start of conflict, including exposure to crossfire (85.7 %), round up raids
(82.7 %), the witnessing of torture (66.9 %), rape (13.3 %), and self-experience of
forced labor (33.7 %), arrests/kidnapping (16.9 %), torture (12.9 %), and sexual
violence (11.6 %). Males reported more confrontations with violence than females.
Transformation in Roles and Responsibilities
When families undergo times of deprivation and material loss, it is not surprising
that they may turn to their children as an economic resource. This is true in many
places but particularly so in a conflict ridden situation when regular breadwinners
are absent, killed, or injured. The likelihood of hazardous work increases in con-
flict because of the reduction in normal economic opportunities and the prevailing
climate of lawlessness and impunity. It will also depend on local cultural factors
which, for example, may create few obstacles to the employment of boys but
ensure that girls are largely prevented from pursuing any public economic activ-
ity. In Kashmir as well, the sons are encouraged to migrate for work. The Hanji
community is increasingly relied on the earning capacity of their children in carpet
weaving. Some families have become so indebted that they have committed their
children in bonded labor to the owners of carpet factories. During conflict, chil-
dren who have lost their father or the prime bread earner and they are left to run
the households with younger siblings or simply left to fend for themselves on the
streets of larger towns. Conflict increases the pressures on the young to work, pos-
sibly at the expense of their schooling. It also leads to under-nourishment and mal-
nutrition; inability of parents to pay for the basic necessities of school education,
such as uniform and writing materials; and more often than not leads to the child’s
withdrawal from religious, social, and cultural events.
The survey done by Dabla (1999) revealed that 84.7 % of such child respond-
ents lived with their mothers, 4 % with their uncle, 9 % with mother’s father,
and 2 % with their father’s father. These children faced problems like economic
hardships, psychological setback, denial of love and affection, and apathy by
relatives and friends. Total dropouts among child respondents were 57 % during
1989–1999; 27 % at primary level, 48 % at middle level, and 25 % at the matric
and above level. Children who were not going to school were engaged in domes-
tic work (3.7 %), handicrafts (37.8 %), automobile workshops (3.7 %), non-
governmental service (3.7 %), and business houses (3.65 %). These child workers
felt that they got lesser wages and were exploited regularly.
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Vulnerability to Children
Many conflicts are now being fought with a combination of high-tech hardware
and traditional weaponry. The variety of combat activities enabled by this mix of
weaponry leads to the injury and death of child civilians in a wide range of situa-
tions. Some of the most common are as follows:
(a) Bystander Injury
The sudden outbreak of gun battles between opposed forces may cause injury
to children caught up in crossfire. This is a particular problem in Kashmir due
to the fact, already noted, that many army checkpoints and camps, which are
obvious target of militant attacks, are situated very close to schools.
(b) Bombing and Shelling
The increasingly sophisticated weaponry involved in the launching of shells
and bombs which are both dropped and planted usually in markets pose an
unavoidable threat to children and their families. Not only are the numbers of
casualties from a single incident often great, the unpredictable nature of such
activities contribute to an atmosphere of fear and anxiety.
(c) In Combat
In Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, particularly children are reported to have been
killed in direct military action. The age of these combatants does not appear to
discourage either their superiors or their enemies from treating them just as any
other soldiers. Same is the case of Kashmir where young boys are taken along
with military personnel who use them as a shield while searching houses. Even
if there is no combat, still the psychological torture of that time period is more
than enough.
Loss of Parents
Orphanages seeking to accommodate children who have lost the care of their
families due to conflict have become commonplace in Kashmir. It is reported that
Kashmir has 33,000 conflict widows and only 8.7 % remarried and it has also cre-
ated conditions where children are abused by step parents. Residing in orphanages
children are exposed to new risks, incidences of orphan children being abused
and beaten for petty reasons in Kashmir are often reported. UK-based child rights
organization, Save the Children, has revealed that the estimated population of
orphans in Jammu and Kashmir is 2,14,000 and 37 % of them were orphaned due
to the armed conflict (Kumar 2012). The report titled “Orphaned in Kashmir—The
State of Orphans in Jammu and Kashmir” based on a study conducted in six dis-
tricts of the state revealed that 37 % of the orphans lost one or both parents due
to the conflict while 55 % were orphaned due to the natural death of parents and
remaining 8 % due to other reasons.
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7 Conflict in Kashmir and Its Impact on Children
The proportion of children orphaned due to conflict is highest in Anantnag dis-
trict of south Kashmir. The largest number of children orphaned due to conflict
was in Anantnag, (56 %), followed by Ganderbal (48 %), Baramulla (33 %), and
Rajouri (31 %); but number of orphans is higher in the Valley than Jammu due
to the conflict. The study revealed that 5 % of the orphans were either physically
abused or intimidated, such as having guns pointed at them, threatened by armed
actors, accused of providing support to the fighting sides, physically assaulted and
hurt, used as bait to capture their parents or as human shields during the conflict.
Among the orphans attending schools, a large number said that the main dis-
traction in school was that they had worries about their families (28 %), noise of
explosions during conflict (19 %), and intimidating presence of troops (13 %),” the
report adds. As per the survey, one-third of the orphans had faced emotional stress
during the conflict, “while 38 % felt despair and skepticism about the future, 32 %
said that their anxiety was triggered by sudden loud noises or seeing battle uni-
forms”. The child rights group has made number of recommendations for overall
betterment of orphans in the state like formulation of child protection policy, set-
ting up of child protection committees and so on.
Education of Children
It is a widely accepted fact that schooling is vital for children’s social and cogni-
tive development. In the conflict situation of Kashmir, regular school attendance
and formal education entails considerable risks for students. One major effect of
the violence reported was fear among children (24.6 %). School related problems
also scored high, such as being unable to attend school was 15.5 % (Jong et al.
2006). Frequent ‘Hadtal’ on different conflict related issues have deteriorated the
quality of education. This ‘Hadtal’ can go for months together, thus having strong
negative repercussions on the young generations of Kashmir. In previous few
years, Kashmir experienced long-term ‘Hadtal’ which could go for 4–6 months on
different conflict related issues like Amaranth cave, Nelofar, and Asiya case and
some other killings. Students were later examined for half portion of their syallabi,
which was assumed to be a way out in such situation but actually damaging their
future. Children learnt new ways of ventilating by showing aggression and were
given due reinforcement for the same, although this does not lead to any positive
growth in them. Madhosh (1999) in his study revealed that strife in the violence
torn valley liquidated the educational system, tore the age old socio-cultural fabric,
and stress had a telling effect on the biophysical, psychological, and social health
of children. Exposure to violent conflict had a large and statistically significant
negative effect on the enrolment of girls and they are less likely to complete their
mandatory schooling.
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Aggression/Stone Pelting
The on-going turmoil has taken a paradigm shift when people, especially children,
started expressing aggression by pelting stones and bearing its negative conse-
quences. They throw stones on armed personnel at small distances in which they
too are beaten and injured. Khan et al. (2012) studied different types of eye inju-
ries between June–September 2010. Most of the victims (75 %) were young boys
between 16–26 years with a mean age of 20.95, 95 % of cases were males. The
main cause of injury was stones (48.3 %) and pellets (30 %) besides rubber bul-
lets, sling shots, and tear gas shells.
Most of the stone palters are school and college going students. When any one
among them is injured or killed, it further fumigates the entire peer circle and
escalates the tension. Some of the stone palters are arrested after which they are
tortured. On 18 march 2011, 5255 persons, including 799 students, were arrested
across the state for allegedly resorting to ‘stone pelting’ during summer unrest.
Different reasons have been given by different parties for stone pelting which actu-
ally represent their own interests. However, Margoob (2010) a well known psychi-
atrist of the valley commented that recent developments of defying law and order
could also be a manifestation of the ever-increasing indescribable levels of frustra-
tion and anger among this ‘trauma generation’, who have hardly seen a minute of
complete peace or tranquility in their lives.
Loss of Childhood
Childhood is known for freedom, fun and playing different games and Kashmir
before armed conflict was no exception. Children used to stay out late in the even-
ing and play different games. The charm would add more during the holy month
of Ramazan in which children, especially girls could sing songs till late evening
and this was part of the Kashmiri culture. But now the situation is totally differ-
ent. Children are involved more in indoor games and have lost all those fun filling
opportunities. They are more tense and stressed and have lost the real childhood.
Mental Health
Armed conflict in Kashmir has high impact on mental health of children.
Empirical studies on children in an armed conflict showed the determinant effects
on children’s mental health and wellbeing. The psychiatric literature shows that
conflict situation increases disorder prevalence (Hoge 2004). Some of the com-
monly found mental health problems in the valley are described below:
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7 Conflict in Kashmir and Its Impact on Children
(a) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Millions of children are exposed to traumatic experiences each year. A signifi-
cant number of these traumatized children develop a clinical syndrome with
significant emotional, behavioral, cognitive, social, and physical symptoms
called PTSD (Perry and Azad 1999). Kashmir being a conflict zone is not free
from it, about 30–50 % showed PTSD. A study conducted by Margoob (1995)
on children in Kashmir reported that of 103 children 37 showed symptoms
of PTSD. In another study on orphan children, PTSD was found common-
est psychiatric problem (40.62 %) followed by MDD (25 %) and conversion
disorder (12.5 %) as reported by Margoob et al. (2006). Exposure to politi-
cal hardships not only increases children’s psychological symptoms but also
make their psychological coping modes ineffective in mitigating this relation-
ship (Punamiki and Suleiman 1990). A study by Dabla (2001) reported that
most crucial problems the children faced after the death of their father is eco-
nomic hardship. Yousuf and Margoob (2006) conducted a study on 100 cases
of PTSD in children, in the age range of 03–16 years, in Govt. Psychiatric
Diseases Hospital, Srinagar. The most common traumatic event experienced
was witnessing the killing of a close relative (49 %), followed by witnessing
the arrest and torture of a close relative (15 %). The commonest symptoms
were somatic complaints followed by convulsion symptoms.
(b) General Anxiety and Depression
Kashmiri children are found to have general anxiety symptoms more apart
from other problems. The continuous threat and unpredictability due to
armed conflict has given rise to such problems. Children are always appre-
hensive and insecure about themselves and their family and thus the core rea-
son behind the anxiety problems they are afflicted with. Many children are
reported as being phobic of army personnel. Depression is one more problem
which has been seen rising in the past two decades in the valley. Amin and
Khan (2009) reported that due to continuing conflict in Kashmir during the
last 18 years there has been a phenomenal increase in psychiatric morbidity.
They revealed that the prevalence of depression is 55.7 % and the prevalence
is highest (66.7 %) in the 15–25 years age. Depression is much higher in rural
areas (84.7 %) as compared to urban areas (15.3 %).
(c) Dissociative Disorders
Dissociative disorders which were a quite common in the Freudian times can
now be seen in abundance among Kashmiri children. The well known fact
is that these disorders have some stressor as a cause and thus stands true for
Kashmiri children as well. The effect of armed conflict in the form of repres-
sion of desires, threats, suppression, humiliation, and insecurity is part of
culture now and could easily lead to such consequences. At times it is seen
associated to parenting which too is somehow affected by the present situ-
ation. Most of the school teachers are now unable to handle such emerging
problem among young students.
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(d) Feelings of Insecurity/Suppression
The feeling of insecurity is common among people of Kashmir and children
are like born with it. When a child arrives home late from school, the anx-
ious reaction of parents clearly indicates the deep rooted insecurity which is
a result of armed conflict. Children do not feel free to move as parents keep
on telling them about harmful consequences. This insecurity is found more
among girls than boys (Raina and Bhan 2013). Women in general have suf-
fered from sexual molestation and a number of rape cases by armed personals.
This information makes girl children more insecure. It restricts their normal
movements and they are usually accompanied by elders. They are not able to
come out of this aura and feel suppressed. A study done by Jong et al. (2008)
revealed that Kashmiri women are among the worst sufferers of sexual vio-
lence in the world. Interestingly, the figure is much higher than that of Sierra
Leone, Sri Lanka and Chechnya. Rape is not incidental to conflict. It can
occur on a random and uncontrolled basis due to the general disruption of
social boundaries and the license granted to soldiers and militants.
Rebellious Nature
The generation gap between parents and young generation has widened due to pre-
sent volatile scenario. Young generation do not see parents as their role models
when it comes to political issues; rather blame them for not doing anything about
it. So they start experimenting with their own aggressive methods to express their
suppressed feelings and would go against any authority. Margoob (2010), a well
known psychiatrist of the valley reported that since the young brain is yet to fully
develop psychological mechanisms, children/adolescents are much more vulner-
able to emotional actions and reactions. When they assume that they are getting
pushed against the wall they get dominated by their emotions and stop caring for
the consequences. Youngsters identify with the group rather than with their indi-
vidual identities and can accordingly get heavily involved in activities that essen-
tially had been nonexistent in the society earlier.
Psychological trauma may become evident in disturbed and antisocial behavior,
such as family conflict and aggression toward others. This situation is often exac-
erbated by the availability of weapons and by people becoming habituated to vio-
lence after long exposure to conflict. The impact of conflicts on mental health is,
however, extremely complex and unpredictable. It is influenced by a host of fac-
tors such as the nature of the conflict, the kind of trauma and distress experienced
the cultural context, and the resources that individuals and communities bring to
bear on their situation (Summerfield 1991). According to the findings from the
recent literature on traumatized children, childhood trauma not only has the capac-
ity to cause short-term symptoms but it can also affect a child’s overall personality
development, interpersonal functioning, self-esteem, and coping ability through-
out their lifespan (Arroyo and Eth 1985). Of greater concern is that generations of
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7 Conflict in Kashmir and Its Impact on Children
children who are growing up with chronic violence in their lives, may reach adult-
hood with the perception that violence is an acceptable means of resolving ethnic,
religious, or political differences.
Conclusion
Armed conflict in Kashmiri has very negative impact on all inhabitants of the val-
ley but most serious effects are seen on children. It has engrossed their whole life
and hampers their overall development, be it physical or psychological. It has led
to loss of their values and has been affected by structural changes in the society.
Children have lost the feeling of security even while being with their family and
perceive themselves as helpless. Conflict has filled their tender hearts with anger
and frustration and they have lost their peace of mind. Health, which is mostly val-
uable for a child is crippled by armed conflict and children suffer from psychologi-
cal problems of PTSD, anxiety, depression etc. It has taken away from them the
happy period of childhood and left them stressed with a number of adult respon-
sibilities. Some are left in orphanages as they have lost their caretakers at the time
when they need them most. Armed conflict is leaving its long-term effect by com-
promising education of children which is most important for the future develop-
ment of society.
Recommendations
The issue under discussion is very grave in nature and need rigorous efforts to
curb at different levels; however some of the helpful recommendations are pre-
sented following Reddy and Reddy (2003) and others are given below:
In conflict time army/security personnel’s camps should not be established near
schools.
Clinical psychologists/Counselors should be appointed in every school.
School buses to be used for security of children while travelling.
Condition of orphanages to be made better.
Education should be given a priority and should not get disturbed by hurdles
etc.
Education should focus on imbibing values and religious teachings without mis-
interpreting in wrong ways; parents should be provided psycho-education.
Right parenting and modeling for children should be focused and exposure to
negative impact of media should be minimized.
Security personnel should not be allowed to demonstrate violence in public.
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An interdisciplinary approach including Psychologists should be followed in
forming the policies/preventive/rehabilitative measures in dealing with impact
of violence on children.
Information should be shared across national and international authorities
to promote effective response to all problems of children affected by armed
conflict.
Government and NGOs must make efforts to reconstruct the economy of the
affected families by providing income—generating assets.
The UNICEF and other NGOs working for rehabilitation of affected chil-
dren in war/conflict should guarantee the rights of children as enshrined in the
Convention of Rights of the Child and as per law of land.
Public education awareness campaigns on the dangers of drug abuse, child
abuse/neglect, mental/physical health aspects, nutrition, child care, education
etc. should be organized by the state and centre.
Acknowledgement The academic input given by Mr. Mohd Altaf (Research Scholar,
Department of Psychology, Jamia Millia Islamia (New Delhi) is gratefully acknowledged.
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7 Conflict in Kashmir and Its Impact on Children
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