The effects of war can be short-term or long-term varying from person to person – war affects soldiers in a different way while the common man is affected in a contrasting manner. People are exposed to traumatic events which leave a life-long impact on their mental health. Children and women have been most vulnerable to suffer from the unspeakable atrocities of war. This article aims to shed some light on wars and their aftermath.
“Too many hands washed in widow’s tears
Too many gun shots ringing in ears
Too many hearts frozen numb from fears
Of hope too distant, like skylight chandeliers”Few lines from the poem Defeat by Michael Prochaska
In the popular sense we all know that war is a form of an extremely violent conflict between states, nations or political groups. At all times, we have tried to analyze wars, its nature, its consequences and therefore its aftermath, and we do know the impact it has on lives for ages even after it ceases.
World War I (1914-1918) was the deadliest of all the wars that happened prior; the weapons were advanced and more countries were involved than any previous war. Over 9 million military personnel lost their lives, and over 7 million were left disabled. The economical balance of the world changed and inflation shot up in most countries. With troops travelling all over the world, an epidemic started which killed more than 25 million people across the world. People began to suffer from fatal diseases, and food shortage led to malnutrition.
World War II lasted between 1939-1945 and involved the vast majority of the world’s countries, including the great powers. Driving social, political, technological and economical change at the same time, WW2 was the most destructive war in history. Fought between the Axis powers and the Allies, it roughly destroyed around 39 million lives. Physical capitals were destroyed, economical statuses changed, families separated for lengthy time periods, properties abandoned or given up without receiving any compensation, and hunger became common – heinous crimes against humanity were committed. The children lost all protection since the adults were either out for war or killed in it. Witnessing the horrors of war at tender ages was such an injury that would walk alongside them for life, physically as well as mentally. As estimated, around 60 million people died in WW2.
During World War II, the United States detonated two nuclear weapons namely, “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” over Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 6th and 9th of August, 1945. Millions of people were killed during the bombings, most of which were civilians. Even months after the attack people continued to die due to the effects of nuclear bombs, radiations, burns, injuries and malnutrition. There were large number of miscarriages due to the effects of radiations and significant increase in birth defects after the bombings. This inhuman destruction depicts well as to why the use of atomic weapons are fundamentally immoral and unethical.
Despite seeing the devastating effects of the two world wars these violent conflicts did not come to an end. They continue to take place between countries or, at times, interstate. The most recent example is not even a year old – the Ukraine-Russia war continues to affect thousands of people irrespective of their civil or military background, in an unimaginable manner.
Since India gained independence and there was subsequent creation of the two nations, there have been evident conflicts between India and Pakistan. Majorly, a long running dispute over the Kashmir issue – as Pakistan controls one third portion of Kashmir called ‘Azad Kashmir’ and the rest belongs to India as ‘Jammu and Kashmir and Leh-Ladakh’. After the decision was taken in June, 1947 to divide British India into two separate states – the dominion of Pakistan and the dominion of India, it took a violent turn and about two million people perished in the inter-communal violence. It’s often described as the largest migration in history. The violent nature of partition paved the way for inhumane forms of large-scale violence. Families and communities were destroyed, women were targeted as symbols of community honour and thousands were abducted and raped, and many were dismembered or disfigured. Mobs targeted and killed groups of passengers who were of a different religion from their own; the trains which were left with their corpses became known as the ghost trains. And after the unforgettable nightmares of partition, India and Pakistan have fought four more wars bearing casualties on both sides.
“People had learned to subdue this history and to take it as not serious. It was like, ‘Oh yeah, that thing that happened, but we don’t really talk about it’. I thought that was a problem in itself.”Guneeta Singh Bhalla, founder of the 1947 Partition Archive
There are numerous other violent conflicts that continue to take place. What we fail to consider is the effect it has on the social life of the civilians – mass destruction, direct exposure to traumatic events, and sexual violence. The negative consequences these conflicts have on public health, socio-economic growth and social order have to be noticed – the lifelong emotional and mental disbalance, the guilt and the grief, the flashbacks and nightmares of those who survive after witnessing wars. The military personnel are at a higher risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD). It is an anxiety disorder developed in an individual after they experience a terrifying or traumatic event. The overall health of the people and the climate is also affected due to the toxic substances produced by the military activities.
In conclusion, a humanitarian quote by Mahatma Gandhi can be cited which puts stress on the role every human must play: “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it“. The world is bound to face conflicts but proper care must be taken of the innocent people, whom war leaves devastated.
Samreen Khan is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Farzan Ghani