The abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir and the subsequent bifurcation of the state has given rise to a brand new cottage industry. The cottage industry attempts to write op-eds in order to influence the international opinion against India with respect to its sovereign action in the State. The cottage industry, one might think emanates from Pakistan, however, the truth is that India itself has several such elements who don’t hesitate to lie to project India in a bad light. One of those players is Leftist propaganda website The Wire, which is run by an American passport holder, Siddharth Varadarajan. The Wire on 14th September 2019 published an article headlined, “Ground Report: Kashmir’s Blackout Is Triggering a New Wave of Mental Health Issues”.
The report resorts to a classic propaganda method. It tries to add useless information in order to obfuscate from what the headline claims, that is, mental health deteriorating after the abrogation of Article 370. While the article includes a host of useless information that has nothing to do with the subject, it then uses conjecture and speculation to tie it all together and somehow, assert that Kashmiris are facing mental health issues after the abrogation of Article 370.
The Wire article starts with a sample of its modus operandi. At the outset, it says that ‘Doctors predicted a rise in the number of cases presenting with stress and anxiety, as a consequence of the removal of Article 370 and the accompanying communications blockade has prevented many from talking to their families or stepping out of home for fear they will be unable to contact their families when out”.
The Wire headline clearly asserts that there is a mental healthcare crisis in the state owing to the decision of the central government, however, at the very outset of the article, The Wire simply admits that it is a mere prediction by doctors, who have not been named in the entire article.
They then proceed to spin a yarn that would leave the readers dizzy.
The Wire talks about a 2015 survey that they use as an indication of the mental health issues prevalent in Kashmir.
The 2015 Survey essentially studied how widespread mental health issues were in Kashmir and what were the associated causes. While the conflict was certainly one of the causes of mental health issues in Kashmir, as per the same survey quoted by The Wire from 2015, “The most-reported problems of daily life faced by adults living in the valley are financial issues, poor health and unemployment. The main coping strategies adopted by Kashmiri adults are prayer, talking to a family member or friend and keeping busy”.
Interestingly, the MSF study that says that the ‘main coping strategies adopted by Kashmiri adults are prayer, talking to a family member or friend and keeping busy’, is quoted in a completely different context by The Wire further down in the article. While the MSF study says that the main cause for depression is financial issues, poor health and unemployment, The Wire uses the coping mechanism employed for depression owing to these causes and connect it to Burhan Wani.
The Wire article quotes an unnamed psychiatrist and says, “…giving the example of the 2016 unrest in the Valley – when Indian security forces had killed the militant Burhan Wani, causing the state to suffer an estimated loss of more than Rs 16,000 crore between July and November that year. Patients had started coming in only after a year of that incident, the IMHANS psychiatrist said. People prioritise their basic needs and not mental health during periods of turmoil and seek help after things normalise, he explained, “Also a very minuscule proportion of people seek help, rest find other ways to cope. Human beings are very resilient.”
It is after this assertion that The Wire article says, “Kashmiri adults use prayer as a coping strategy, as well as talking to a family member or friend, and “keeping busy”, the MSF study said”, thereby giving the impression that Kashmiri folks pray and keep busy to cope with mental health issues after ‘traumatic incidents’ like the security forces killing a terrorist like Burhan Wani.
It is only later that the article mentions the leading cause of depression in Kashmiris as mentioned in th MSF report. Not only that, The physician quoted by The Wire says that the effect on mental health issues that the central government’s move could have had would be understood only after a few years. One wonders how, in that case, has The Wire already concluded that the abrogation of Article 370 led to a mental health crisis.
The chicanery of The Wire to assert rising mental health issues in Kashmir does not stop there and only gets more brazen.
In a section with the subheading, “Patients reluctant, unable to access healthcare”, Wire quotes fake news IndiaSpend to say that patients have not been able to access healthcare since August 5th 2019 so as to give the impression that even though Kashmiris are facing mental health issues due to the abrogation, they are not being able to get themselves treated. However, they follow it up in the same section by stating “Even in a normal situation, few people access mental healthcare, in particular”. In that case, how did The Wire manage to tie it to the abrogation of Article 370 is a mystery yet to be solved.
Following this, The Wire’s blatant agenda becomes even more clear.
The Wire goes on to assert that after the abrogation of Article 370 in August, 44.5% fewer patients visited IMHANS compared to July. However, they also say that this data is inconclusive as the number of patients was even lower in May.
The graph that they sourced from IMHANS is just added in the article without giving the readers an explanation for the discrepancies that the graph and The Wire’s arguments have.
Interestingly, the highest mental health issues reported in Kashmir was in July, a month before the abrogation of Article 370. The lowest was in May.
The Wire article uses the statement of an anon physician to make a conclusion that the data does not support. Firstly, The Wire article proclaims that the number of health issue cases have gone up since the abrogation of Article 370. Then, they quote a physician to say that the actual effect of the move on mental health will be visible only a few years from now. Then, they use the lie about Kashmiris having no access to healthcare to insinuate that while mental health issues have increased, the cases in August are low because of no access to healthcare, however, since the cases were even lower in May and the highest in June, the data is inconclusive. Why did The Wire not draw the obvious, more simple conclusion that mental health cases are down in August, were down in May and the highest in July?
In the rest of the article, they liberally use statements of children and other Kashmiris who claim they are upset. However, not one shred of evidence was presented by The Wire to back its assertion that mental health issues have gone up after the abrogation of Article 370.
This blatant chicanery by The Wire is not surprising. The Wire itself has been caught numerous times peddling fake news and a narrative, laced with lies, that only hurts the cause of India. To top that, one of the co-authors of this article published in The Wire is a correspondent from IndiaSpend. This article itself was first published in IndiaSpend. Recently, IndiaSpend, much like this dubious article in The Wire, had quoted data to further a fake narrative on beef export, which was busted by the data quoted in its own article.
IndiaSpend itself was responsible for furthering the highly dubious hate crime watch database that has now shut shop. With their bigoted agenda and dubious track record, the IndiaSpend Factchecker.in had all along attempted to push Hinduphobic propaganda by selectively reporting crimes in which accused were allegedly Hindus and referred to it as a ‘Hate crime’ while deliberately ignoring those crimes committed in which perpetrators were Muslims and the victims were Hindus.
The ‘Hate Crime Watch’ initiative of the Factchecker.in, which began as a supposed tracking tool of hate crimes across the country, soon began to manifest its true colours by not only limiting its reporting to Hinduphobic content but also whitewashing crimes committed by Muslims against the Hindus. In fact, there have been instances where IndiaSpend’s ‘factchecker’ journalist was caught trying to manipulate a minor Dalit victim from Begusarai who, along with his family, was attacked by local Muslim goons, trying to force them to sell their home to prove that there was no ‘hate crime’.
In an attempt to justify their statement of not treating a terror attack – where the terrorist himself declared that it was a religious war against infidels – as a religious hate crime, FactChecker compared the terrorist attack with alleged attacks on Kashmiris in some parts of India after the Pulwama terror attack. They claimed that they have not included such attacks either as ‘hate crime’ as it doesn’t fit into their ‘motivated by religious identity’ criteria, because such attacks appear motivated by regional identities of the victims, not religious.