How the Kashmiri Pandit Exodus in 1990 Affected and
Continues to Affect the Mental Health of Kashmiri Pandits

Hiya Kaul

A senior at Valencia High School in Los Angeles, Hiya Kaul is the KOA Youth Representative of Zone 10 and the co-host for KOA Youth's podcast, Everything Koshur, the first-ever Kashmiri Pandit podcast. Kaul joined KOA in June of 2022 with the motivation of writing this research paper because of her long-term interest in psychology and mental health paired with her newfound knowledge of the extremity of the Kashmiri Pandit Exodus of 1990 and the ongoing genocide. This paper surveyed 8 anonymous Kashmiri Pandit participants, 4 of which directly witnessed the genocide and the other 4 who were victims of generational trauma. Kaul relayed their stories and discussed the detrimental mental health effects that were rooted in them and the unavailability of resources due to the stigma.

ABSTRACT

The mass exodus in Kashmir, India in 1990 was one of the worst terrorist attacks in history. Yet, there is so much about it that is not talked about. One of the main aspects continually overlooked is mental health- depression, anxiety, PTSD, (generational) trauma, and more. This mass exodus is part of an ongoing genocide that has wiped out almost all Kashmiri Pandits, leaving only around 2% of the original population alive today, and obliterated the mental health of many more. How this event has affected the mental health of others is not limited to those who experienced and viewed it firsthand. Hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits are finding out about the brutalities their loved ones faced and struggling to come to terms with and cope. For mental health treatment to start, there needs to be an acceptance of the fact that help is required. In a country such as India, there is still a huge stigma around those who seek mental health assistance. In a city such as Kashmir where the residents have faced indescribable pain, the conversation about mental health paired with the stigma is not very popular. Data was collected from Kashmiri Pandit individuals, ages ranging from 20-57, who have gone through the exodus themselves or have had loved ones terrorized and as a result have gained generational trauma/indirect trauma.

Literature Review

Kashmiri Pandit Genocide/Exodus

The Kashmiri Pandit people have resided in the Kashmir valley since ancient times. The uprisings and usurps on their land date back to as early as the ninth century. The population of Kashmiri Pandits was not a very large one, to begin with; they existed in incredibly small numbers compared to other ethnic groups. As the centuries passed, the demographic ratio of Kashmiri Pandits on their own land reversed completely as outside parties settled on their ground, forcing religious conversions or atrocious consequences. A widespread utterance throughout the years of this genocide has been Raliv, Galiv, ya Chaliv which verbatim translates to ‘convert, die, or leave.’ By the twentieth century, the Kashmiri Pandit population was reduced to the minority population on their soil. The situation dramatically changed in the late 1980s to all of the 1990s when armed terrorists heinously recommenced their targeted killings, this time more ominous than ever before. This marked the beginning of the 7th exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits. As women were gang-raped and villages were being burnt, over 260,000 Kashmiri Pandit individuals had to flee leaving penniless and with no indication of a return (K.L. Kaul and M.K. Teng 1992). By the mid-1990s, the Kashmir valley was almost entirely emptied out, with the number of Kashmiri Pandit families remaining in the valley being able to be counted on the fingers of both hands. These families fled on large produce-carrying trucks and wagons to the south part of the state, Jammu, where they resided in small tents and saw many days without food and water and to which people still remain today. At any point, if they were caught, they were barbarically massacred and shown no mercy. Women, children, men, the elderly, and newborns were all subject to torment - no one was an exception. As the 8th exodus is currently undergoing, it is still unsafe for the families who fled to return back to their homes for good.

Mental Health Disorders [Stigma]

The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community” (W.H.O 2022). Mental health disorders are categorized under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fifth Edition (DSM-5) which is a widely accepted manual used by licensed mental health care professionals. They root in disturbances in the state of mental well-being whether it be genetic, environmental, or social factors. They are seen to manifest more impactfully during emotionally and mentally vulnerable times but can truly surface whenever. Stigma arises from a society where the residents do not understand the science behind the causes of mental illnesses and associates and tend to show a sense of incognizance towards it. This is referred to as social stigma/public stigma. Stigma is very harmful; it shuts many doors for people who are battling these challenges and creates a false narrative surrounding them, furthering mental decline. The American Psychiatric Association states that “stigma around mental illness especially an issue in some diverse racial and ethnic communities and it can be a major barrier to people from those cultures accessing mental health services” (A.P.A 2022). Stigma can be cultural as in some families, it is regarded as shameful and any discussion of it is shut down instantly. Even in today’s society with the conversation of mental health becoming more prevalent, some remain uneducated on the matter and continue to view this subject in a negative manner.

Generational Trauma

Generational trauma is rooted in a direct traumatic experienced being passed down to the next generation. The individual(s) experiencing generational trauma suffer the symptoms of the trauma, not genetically, but environmentally as a sort of communal trauma defined as affecting a larger community, cultural, racial, ethnic, or other groups/populations (Dr. Fabiana Franco, Ph.D. 2021). The effect of generational trauma on the larger community, cultural, racial, ethnic, or other groups is also known as historical trauma and the very first cases can be traced back to the succeeding generation of Holocaust survivors. Generational trauma not only produces raw trauma but manifests other mental health disorders as well. Danieli, Fran H. Norris, Ph.D., of Dartmouth College, and Brian Engdahl, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota conducted an experiment on 484 children and grandchildren of the Holocaust and concluded that “35 percent of the smaller sample had Generalized Anxiety Disorder, 26 percent had a major depressive episode and 14 percent had PTSD” (A.P.A 2019). Although the Holocaust is not the only event that produced generational trauma, it is a prime example of a massive, direct source of trauma passing down two explicit generations and still emerging in great numbers. Children biologically have impressionable minds and view the world extensively from the eyes of their parents. Seeing parents or immediate family members struggle for consistently long periods of time because of any traumatic occurrence will impress onto the child’s mind, leaving an inimical marking.

Ethnic Cleansing

Ethnic cleansing simply refers to the expulsion of a certain ethnic group from a particular area. (PBS News Hour 2017). It is different from genocide as genocide refers to the actual elimination of an ethnic group. There is an overlap that may occur between the two such as genocidal ethnic cleansing or ethnocide which is usually what happens since most countries do not peacefully force out natives from their land (Pégorier Clotilde 2013). The United Nations reports that under international law, ethnic cleansing has still not been recognized as a crime. Ethnic cleansing occurs on mass scales with permanent intent and with no mercy. Mostly, the goal is to push out the original group to any external land so the inflictors can take over everything for themselves. There is never a defined territory to which the group would be sent (Dan Stone 2012). The earliest use of ethnic cleansing was seen being used by the Russians, etnischeskoye chischeniye, literally translating to ‘ethnic cleansing,’ when the Soviet army was involved in the exile of the Armenians from Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis (Banks and Wolfe Murray 1999).


Click here to read the full Research Paper.
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Hiya Kaul
National Youth Representative
"I am really thankful to KOA for giving the youth a platform to speak about our community. Having this paper published has been a dream and I feel like my findings and data would be very educational for people to learn about since this topic is never talked about. Thank you!"