Halla Bol over Lancet Article on Kashmir

Srinagar: The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has condemned an editorial in The Lancet raising concerns on the “health, safety and freedom of the Kashmiri people” following the government’s measure to scrap Article 370, terming it “interference” in India’s internal affairs.

Terming the editorial “Fear and Uncertainty around Kashmir’s future” a “breach of propriety” in commenting on a political issue, the IMA’s President Santanu Sen and Secretary General R.V. Ashokan, in a letter to Lancet’s Editor-in-Chief Richard Horton on Monday, questioned the “credibility” and “malafide intention” behind it.

They also said following this “unsolicited intrusion” into Indian affairs, the IMA, on behalf of the country’s medical fraternity, now withdrew “the esteem” they had for the medical journal.

ASI demands an apology

Condemning the editorial, the Association of Surgeons of India (ASI) demanded an unconditional apology from the journal’s editorial board for presenting facts in a biased and malafide manner.

“The contents of the editorial are factually incorrect, politically motivated, prejudiced, unsubstantiated and downright racist. We question the stand that the journal has taken on this most sensitive issue, where neither the author nor the editorial board of The Lancet have an insight regarding the background and circumstances that made the Narendra Modi-led Indian government to take the bold decision to revoke Article 370,” said Arvind Kumar, President, ASI.

In a letter to The Lancet’s Editor-in-Chief Richard Horton, the ASI demanded an unconditional apology from the editorial board of the journal for the malafide editorial.

“The editorial is totally out of context and has been written in a bad taste, which has hurt the feelings of billions of Indians living world over. We demand an immediate withdrawal of the editorial from the online version of the journal and an unconditional apology from the editorial board to be printed prominently in the next issue of the journal,” said P. Raghu Ram, Vice President, ASI.

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Kashmiri Pandit diaspora slams Lancet

An organization of physicians of the Kashmiri Pandit diaspora has written to The Lancet, voicing “outrage and extreme disappointment over its one-sided version” in its editorial.

Here is the LANCET Editorial

Last week in a controversial move, India revoked the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, allowing India greater authority over the state’s affairs. The announcement fanned tension with Pakistan, which also claims the region and has fought India over it for more than seven decades. At least 28 000 Indian security forces have been deployed; in the capital city Srinagar, a lockdown has been implemented that suspended communication and internet links, and a strict curfew has been imposed. The militant presence raises serious concerns for the health, safety, and freedoms of the Kashmiri people.

Since the insurgency of Kashmir in 1989, the state has experienced bloody conflict from both sides, resulting in more than 50 000 deaths. According to a report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, published last month, gross human rights violations by state security forces and armed groups have occurred, including cross-border firings, sexual violence, enforced disappearances, and acts of terrorism. The report emphasises continued use of excessive force against civilians—for example, the use of pellet-firing shotguns has led to 1253 people being blinded between 2016 and 2018. Both India and Pakistan have largely dismissed the report’s recommendations to end the abuse.

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Despite decades of instability, developmental indicators suggest that Kashmir is doing well compared with the rest of India. In 2016, life expectancy was 68·3 years for men and 71·8 years for women, which are greater than the respective national averages. However, the protracted exposure to violence has led to a formidable mental health crisis. A Médecins Sans Frontières study in two rural districts affected by conflict stated that nearly half of Kashmiris rarely felt safe and of those who had lost a family member to violence, one in five had witnessed the death firsthand. Therefore, it is unsurprising that people in the region have increased anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi vows that his decision to revoke autonomy will bring prosperity to Kashmir. But first, the people of Kashmir need healing from the deep wounds of this decades-old conflict, not subjugation to further violence and alienation.

What is LANCET?

The Lancet is a weekly medical journal. It is among the oldest, most prestigious, and the best known medical journals of the world

It was founded in 1823 by an English Surgeon, Mr. Thomas Wakley.

Its editorial offices are located in London, New York and Beijing.

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