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Years of strife left a generation traumatized. India’s clampdown disrupted daily life. Now the battle against the coronavirus has further isolated and scarred a people with little access to help.

Kashmir, Under Siege and Lockdown, Faces a Mental Health Crisis

PAHOO, Kashmir — Sara Begum’s suffering began on Aug. 3, when masked policemen barged into her home, badly roughed up her son and whisked him away. Ms. Begum’s son, Fayaz Ahmad Mir, 28, was one of thousands of civilians arrested or detained by order of the Indian government after it moved forcefully to cement its control over Kashmir, a largely Muslim region of about eight million people claimed by both India and Pakistan. Eight months after India revoked Kashmir’s semiautonomous status and brought the region fully under its authority, doctors here say a state of hopelessness has morphed into a severe psychological crisis. Hard data is difficult to come by, but local medical professionals say they are seeing a rise in suicides and an increase in already disturbingly high rates of domestic abuse. This area has been mired in conflict for decades , with its majority-Muslim population agitating for independence or at least more autonomy from India, which is majority Hindu and controls most of Kashmir. Even before the events of recent months, decades of violence between Indian security forces and Kashmiri militants had taken a physical and mental toll on the region and its people. Security forces flooded the area, cut off roads, shut down landlines, cellphone lines and the internet, and arrested thousands of Kashmiris, from students to top elected officials. Many, including three former chief ministers , were detained under India’s Public Safety Act, a law that allows the authorities to jail suspects without charge for up to two years. Mr. Sultan takes sleeping pills and complains of a recurring dream in which he is traveling to a tourist resort before soldiers stop him and shoot him between the eyes. Before the August clampdown, Nida Rehman, 28, wanted to lift the spirits of others by setting up a nonprofit organization to raise awareness for mental health issues.

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