The rising number of suicides in Kashmir has forced religious leaders to step in and try to dissuade people from ending their own lives.
Several imams and preachers made suicide the subject of their Friday sermons, advising people to turn to god in depressing situations. Some suggested regular recitation of particular verses from the Quran for spiritual strength.
The grand Mufti of Kashmir, Mufti Bashiruddin, issued a fatwa on Thursday forbidding Muslims from participating in the
(funeral) prayers of those who commit suicide. He said suicide was a sinful act abhorred by Islam and those who killed themselves did not deserve to be honoured after death.
The idea of roping in religious leaders came from prominent psychiatrist Dr Mushtaq Margoob. In the wake of the steep rise in the number of suicide attempts, Dr Mushtaq appealed to spiritual and religious leaders to step in. "There is need for an element of spirituality to stop suicides. Religious leaders can play a role in this," he said.
Suicides have been the second most common cause of unnatural deaths in Kashmir after blasts and gunfights in the last 18 years, say experts.
In Srinagar's Sri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital, doctors said suicide-attempt cases formed between 7 and 10 per cent of total admissions. Dr Tariq Ahmad Bhat of SKIMS Medical College said the figure could be higher as suicides are more common in rural areas and go unreported.
The Sociology Department of Kashmir University conducted a detailed study on suicides in Kashmir a few years ago, which revealed that apart from basic social factors, stress related to the daily violence accelerated the suicide rate. "Political instability and incessant violence has shattered Kashmiri society and suicides are one of its offshoots," said sociologist Khursheed Ul Islam. "Intolerance, strained family ties and constant insecurity are other reasons for suicides." Women and youth are more prone to commit suicide.