“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Jehangir highlights the price of anxiety among the section of the community most affected by political violence and societal changes in Kashmir

(Mr. Jehangir Rashid Malik, 37, was born in Srinagar, and did his primary schooling at the Green Land Educational Institute in Hawal, Srinagar. He studies at the Sri Partap Higher Secondary School for classes XI and XII, and completed his Bachelor’s degree through distance mode from the University of Kashmir. He subsequently graduated from the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the University of Kashmir with a Master’s degree in Mass Communication and Journalism. As a journalist, he is associated with the Civil Society, a New Delhi magazine, and is the Editor of Kashmir Plus, a news and feature based portal of Srinagar. He began his career in journalism as a correspondent with the Kashmir Times, and later worked at the Daily Etalaat (English) and as a news editor with the Daily Khidmat (English). He has been awarded the Sanjoy Ghose Humanitarian Award for story writing by the Charkha Development Network, New Delhi, and has received fellowships from the Action Aid India, the Centre for Science and Environment, and the National Foundation for India, all based in New Delhi. In his leisure time, Mr. Malik likes watching cricket and listening to radio programs especially old melodies sung by legends, Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar Ganguly.)

Drug Abuse and Women in Kashmir

Drug addiction drives a female to a desperate situation and at times she would not hesitate in beating her husband and at some other times she would brave all odds while trying to fetch an ordinary bottle of cough suppressant. All this has been noticed in female drug addicts who visit drug de-addiction centres in the city, but the problem is that these centres are not many.

Acquiring treatment at one of the city-based de-addiction centres, Bilkis [name changed], a middle-aged woman and mother of three children observes complete silence and straightway declines to answer any query related to addiction, when approached. She is all mum and a person would believe that she has nothing to do with an extraordinary phenomenon like drug addiction.

“I simply want to share that I have come here for treatment and nothing more nothing less. Don’t ask questions to me and just provide me the treatment,” says Bilkis.

A counsellor at the de-addiction centre says that Bilkis often enters into verbal brawl with her husband on one or other pretext ‘and often beat him.’

Bilkis has been consuming substances (drugs) like tranquilizers (sleeping pills) and corex (cough syrup) for last six years. Recently, she has started visiting the de-addiction centre.

“She consumes three bottles of corex every day. She has certain psychological problem and has developed gynaecological infection as well. I have asked her and her husband to go for certain clinical tests, but it is very difficult to handle such patients. Because of the

social stigma attached to drug addiction they don’t come up openly with facts,” says the doctor in-charge at the centre.

The doctor said that when she approached him, she was first hesitant to come out with details. “Later she told me that there are six more ladies in her locality who face the same problem and they too want to consult the doctor,” says the doctor.

The doctor added that he is sure that there will be more than six ladies “and I encouraged her to come forward with all of them and that all the conversation would be kept confidential.”

Referring to another example the doctor said that an unusual case came to him for treatment.

A young woman from Khrew-Pampore, some 20 kilometres from city centre, approached him. “She consumed petrol like water and was accustomed to it for several months,” says the doctor.

The doctor added that during three-month-long-strike in 2008 this woman took petrol out of tanks of three vehicles that they have at home and drank it.

“Because of this her marriage that was scheduled within couple of months, broke away and she was very upset,” said the doctor.

“Better counselling can play an indispensable role in treating such patients. At our de-addiction centre, counselling is offered and those patients who show no sign of improvement are asked to visit the centre and if required they are admitted.”

With search operations, crackdowns, firing incidents and grenade blasts being a regular feature here, women-folk are all the time worried about safety and security of their dear ones. Drugs in form of cough syrups and other sedatives is last resort for many to come out of mental tension that hogs them all the time.

“Females are more sensitive and they are most harried lot in the situation Kashmir is going through over last 19 years. In order to get out of mental block they visit medical shops in vicinity where chemist prescribe medicines to them which gives them temporary relief and they get used to them,” says Dr. Ghulam Nabi Wani, founder HNSS De-addiction Centre, Khanyar.

In the past Kashmiri women more so living in rural areas used to take nicotine by puffing Hukka and also by having poppy seeds. This continued till armed uprising started here. Following this there was a change in pattern of addiction as far as females are concerned.

Dr. Wani says that due to threat to life females were up against a torrid time and most of the times they were seen depressed over entire scheme of things. He believes that females are emotionally very brittle and can break down even at simple adverse situation, not to talk of a tough situation which arises after losing a near or dear one.

(The article is a part of series of articles to be published in connection with the fellowship offered to the writer by National Foundation for India (NFI), New Delhi on the topic, ‘Drug addiction among females in Kashmir valley’.)