Author: The Speaking Chinar
•7:47 PM

Just two years after the farce of 1987 in Kashmir, the Indian general elections were held in 1989. Mr. B, a Pandit of some repute and an Indian administrative service bureaucrat of his time, lived by his job, having been posted at various places and levels of his career. With the humiliation and denial of 1987 still fresh in the memory of common people, Kashmiris hardly bothered about the 1989 general elections. Mr. B, then posted in Srinagar, hailed originally from Islamabad town in Anantnag district (part of the Anantnag parliamentary constituency), decided early in the day to exercise his ‘democratic right’. He left early, had the vehicle drop him home for a quick change. On such an indifferent day the roads were already deserted but for the presence of Indian forces, the drive home did not take too long for him. By the fading afternoon he was walking towards the polling booth. The old government school, with its crumbling walls and faded color wore the look of a deserted outpost, with the few uniformed sentries guarding a seemingly empty fort. Inside the polling booth, the poll officials were lazing with nothing else to do but stare at an obscure door, which in its creaking moaned like an old man weary of walking a few steps. A clueless guy on a rickety chair opened the electoral register to locate Mr. B on it. Shuffling a few pages the unshaven guy on a rickety chair, zeroed in on a row of records on his register, stood up and muttered ‘you have already voted Jinab’. A silence was followed by a stern stare and Mr. B grabbed the electoral register, flipping over pages like mad. Rummaging on dusty old table he found that the register had entries of votes already cast, that not only included his own but many votes of his family too. Standing there for a second, perplexed, then started to walk back, towards the creaky moaning door. Having taken just a few steps, he turned back and again demanded the register. Pointing to his electoral record he pointed the register towards the unshaven guy on that rickety chair “vote traavun ous vyann sahlei, magar myaane parnukk karzehaeev lehaazei. Yeh myaness navaas seeth dastakhatt badle nyatth karuun goev naa zulm” (proxy voting on my behalf can still be pardoned. But you should have given some respect to my education. Your putting a thumb impression instead of a signature against my name is too much disrespect).

The man in the rickety chair was the National Conference polling agent of that polling booth. Even after such proxy voting, 1989 elections witnessed the lowest-ever voter turnout, at mere 5 percent in Srinagar and Ananatnag (according to official figures). Incidentally Ananatnag seat was ‘won’ by Pyare Lal Handoo of National Conference, Baramulla seat was declared ‘won’ by Saifuddin Soz (who was then with NC), while in Srinagar Mohammad Shafi Bhat of National Conference was declared to have ‘won unopposed’, as nobody else had filed nomination for this seat.    *1

Back in 2008, assembly elections.

On a bright day, not many had ventured out in Srinagar. We too stayed back home, election day becoming another cage for the commoners, with more troops than civilians visible on roads. More than a week after the elections had ended; my family received our voter ID cards, the data for which had been collected by visiting government officials’ months ahead of these elections. Ironically later found that our voter ID cards had, for days preceding and post these elections, been in the possession of the local henchmen of a political party. These local ‘political pimps’ had not only ensured ‘proper utilization’ of our elections cards, but also had the audacity to deliver them to us days after these elections had ended. Hence technically my family (including me) had voted, while we had not even actually ventured out on election day. An MLA who had never visited our constituency before the elections and never ever bothered to visit after the elections, had won. His only political virtue was being the brother of chief patron of National Conference and hence a part of the ‘nominated apparatus’ in Kashmir.

I am sure there are many across Kashmir who may have actually voted in recent elections and that their votes may have been counted along with our proxy votes. But when the outcome of such elections has been engineered to be decided by manipulation, fragmentation or even a poll boycott, what use is the vote of those who actually cast them? For a nation or a society to be regarded as maximally democratic, the right to fair political choices must be offered and extended to all state subjects in line with political agreements and promises. Sadly in conflict zones like Kashmir, primary democratic rights of deciding own future have been held hostage by India to farce of political nominations, only aiming to continue a military supported proxy occupation. And such Indian ‘democratic manipulation’ continues to be a theatre of the absurd.  

But then this has been going on in Kashmir for ages !

The entire democratic process has been strangulated and trampled time and again by the local zealots to serve their narrow political ends. These perversions in the long run have not only ridiculed the electoral process but also contributed to the spurt of fundamentalism, subversion and militant violence in the state” (P.S.Verma, Jammu and Kashmir at the political crossroads, 1994, p.114-125)

"The fact remained that the final decision about selection of candidates, extent of rigging and supply of funds rested with the central Congress leadership. Not even once the elections were fair and free and a candidate holding independent views had slim chance to be elected. It was taken for granted that so long as the ruling party was in the good books of the Central Government, it was sure by hook or by crook to win the majority at the polls; most of its candidates were declared elected without contest". (Prem Nath Bazaz, Democracy through Intimidation and Terror, New Delhi: Heritage Publishers)

*1 Mr B’s incident was narrated to me by my wonderful friend and artist par excellence Amin Sahab.

New Delhi- 
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Author: Saadut
•8:15 PM

Seen a war ravaged city, overrun by a tempest and then forgotten to ruins? A city, once beautiful now uprooted by the night and cut open like a cadaver to obliteration? My city, on the throes of drowning, yet clinging to life by its threads, looks desolate and devastated like a night zombie that suffocating breathes living but drags half dead by its streets. 

I lost count of the days since these floods came, lost track of time too. Someday I presumed it was still Monday, while the calendar marked a Thursday. There were no reasons to herald a morning for days together, for a city that had not slept for so long now, awake in fright of collapsing homes and missing families, awake in anticipation of the unknown worse, awake because every institution had long gone to sleep, the state being the first to flee. I lost track of time, for it no longer mattered if the hands of clock moved between morning to noon or after it, time had ceased to be the sand of an hour glass, turning into a seemingly unending flow of sinking events, of boats that never came to rescue, of walls that no longer held, of roofs that caved on to families, of water that was enough to drown but not enough to drink, of time that became a tide and kept flowing over us. 

I lost track of identity, of who we were in this melee. Who was I struggling by the shore to wade over what once was a road, a garden, a wall, a bustling street, an embankment that now ceased to divide the river from our homes? Who was I pleading to unknown oarsmen, the boatmen who spoke my language on other days, but turned deaf today, the aliens among us, the herders of luck and life? Who were the ones stuck in homes of deluge, the faceless crestfallen, the marooned without a name tag and class? Who were those brave hearts, running all along water and earth, saving the unknown, un-acquainted, some of who then lost their own life? Did they seek the caste, religion or status of those they saved, redeemed, accompanied, and shored? What identity did those crying for help carry, what profession, what religion, what sect, what belief? Or maybe nothing of this mattered now, nothing of this identity remained intact, nothing of it was carried along. I lost track of my own identity, over ravaging waters that treated everyone with equal scorn. I lost track of their identity, those who pleaded for dear life, those fleeing but not too far, those fleeing but not intact, those who burned their intricate wood carved ceilings for strangers to stay warm, holding on to islands on their attics. I lost track of you, who watched all this from the other balcony, from the other shore, for the distant shoreline, from the farther dwellings over your TV sets, for the farthest mainland where each one of us, the marooned and the starving, were supposed to be grateful for your benevolence that never reached us. Over all this I lost track of our pathways; from where did we start and to where do we go now?

I lost track of the borders of humanity, when those youngsters who not long ago had been labeled by the military state as ‘anti social elements’ ‘the unwanted, hence condemned to black lists and hounding’, extended help to paramilitaries, offering rescue and food, unmindful of the concertina of state terror that excluded us. I saw these youngsters wade over torrents to carry tokens of life for the same paramilitaries who in other times were known to have aimed at our heads for mere target practice. I heard those who fled us long back, prayed for the deluge to consume us all, and then I saw local brave hearts rescue the kith of those who cursed us, from near the garrisoned cantonment, for our humanity had still not fled. 

Today again, seemingly umpteenth time, I drove across my city, to shed a few more tears among its stinking, sinking ruins, to walk a few more steps among its abandoned alleys. The few souls that did dare venture this evening ran hurriedly over broken demarcations, lost road signs and heaps of rubbish, as if escaping some fearful demon. In the dark of an unlit evening the malls of exhibition crossing looked like tall metal caged ghosts, grayish and brooding, hanging their heads in perpetual shame, those had gleamed in neon of a bright evening in the recent past, now hanging like relics a shameful defeat. Over the bridge to its right leading to the city center, an odd streetlight glowed over eerily empty roads, the oddity of this street light creating dreadful figures over chalk like silt on these roads; roads that stood abandoned even by those gun trotting uniformed near Maisuma, who till recently would stand scattered on these roads, stopping and peering every night traveler. In better days, I thought these columns of armed patrols were there to guard the night lights of my city, but now that those lights had been stolen these menacing armed patrols have fled too.  

On the Residency road, somewhere by the corner of desolately abandoned shops, a solitary billboard light blinked in pale sickening yellow, like the last sighs of a person who refuses to let go, even while having been abandoned on his bed to a cursed fate. I stopped and looked back towards an unending stretch of this road that was dissected by a dark long shadow of once what was the clock tower, a deeply contested place to hoist a flag; our blood red green versus their forced nationalism raised by blood drenched sleeves. I imagined the not so distant evening lights, the sparkle of life moving slow over illuminated shops, receding bright tail lamps and converged cartwheels by road corners, where spice and fish was served with laughter. Now the dim long shadows of the once clock tower created ferocious faces in this dark, scaring away all even the moonlight. 

Over buses of the transport yard, the storm had left markings like lines of age, each grey line for a new high of the deluge, each layer of silt like an unwritten warning note.  Each piece of thrash hanging high over floors or once impenetrable now part collapsed walls, became a reminder of what we had been offering nature for decades, which was now to become its return gift. Rows and rows of muted shutters stood like mourners in a queue, in grayish brown imprints like forgotten faded bar-codes of a warehouse, awaiting redemption in the middle of an endless nowhere. I imagined, how on earlier days, scores of people would be rushing home late, trying to grab the last transport over shouts of destinations, overlapping over brightly lit roads. Today there were no destinations to catch, no voices to call, no homes to rush to. There were just strange shadows of dark streetlights stumbling over each other on a lightless night, long shadows those chased the scary solitary traveler.  

By the bend of M.A road a lonely man scurried on the left, then suddenly darted to the middle of the road, undecided where to go. I stopped wanting to offer him a lift, “where do you have to go?” I asked. “Not decided yet” he replied shaking his head and moved ahead to the right side, carrying a pace that seemed unsure of distances. He too, like my city, had lost way. 

They called it the bride of evening, adoring colors in hanging lights. Now ‘Sangarmall’ looked like a mortuary, where the war had buried a debris pile. Its rows held some faces, hiding in dark, as if ashamed of their befallen fate. Endless arteries of dark roads seemed to lead to darker unknowns; the roads those seemed so familiar till recently had become so unknown today. In the strange dark of these roads, grey shadows seemed to chase each other, over street bends, empty squares and grim looking pavements. The fortified police station at Khanyar, which extends to major part of the road there, seemed to have escaped to its own shell, leaving the night to play on these empty roads. Neither a whimper, nor a baton would dare the stillness of this nebulous night. 

This year autumn has burned early to my city beloved, leaves that were green and lively to fall, turned desert brown early on. The autumn gold now lay to dust, of smoke and ash in water lit fires. 

From a sunk city. 

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Author: Saadut
•11:14 PM

Calamities teach us harsh lessons of life that come at a great irreparable loss.

Days of downpour by 4th September was so unrelenting that many courtyards resembled small ponds. Every water channel in Srinagar like the Naal-e-Amir Khan or the internal waterways near Zaldagar, Nawabazar were already filling up, hinting at things to be. 

When the flood channel & doodhganga near Barzulla and Natipora were inundated by early weekend, the state had ceased to exist and it were the locals who took over. Between the left flank posh colonies and the right flank old Barzulla, the left flank caved in first. By morning dwellings there became lakes and the state slept over it. Called up my friend, who had already moved to the second story with his ailing parents, unaware that worse was yet to come. All their rations had been consumed by the deluge and with no help in sight soon, they had to flee their home.

Saturday as the floods advanced, my friends Dr. Javaid (Oncologist) and Dr. Sajad (Ophthalmologist) made a rush to their hospitals and sat there till late, trying to attend whosoever they could (I sat with them there), even as back home flood waters were rising alarmingly. Later the areas of their residences were also submerged. More than eight days into the disaster, tried as hard as I may have, still have not been able to reach Dr. Javaid. 

As the Jehlum in its ferocity was breaching banks, overflowing and invading habitations with all its might, it was between man and water now. The state had assumed a self proclaimed demise, saw local brave hearts rushing to whatever rescue they could, in rickety boats or by tying ropes between street lights and carrying people to safer locations. A policeman in plain clothes was fleeing with his uniform in a travel bag, seeking help from the same volunteers, instead of joining these rescue teams. Soon these rescue efforts ceased for the night with rescue equipment failing against invading waters.

Rashid, the domestic help who had grown up at my uncles place, sat all Sunday pleading with boatmen near Lalmandi for a  boat, to somehow rescue my uncles family, yet failed. I tried all my contacts till the phone networks gave away and the boats vanished. The river and these colonies had merged, with the distinction between river banks and tall compound walls having been erased since.

The lady and her kid at Jawahar Nagar saw a boat rowing outside her window, pleaded the boat man to rescue them. The boatman replied ‘sufarish lagao resuce ke liye. Yahan sirf sufarsih chalti hai’. She sunk back into the third floor of her house. Don’t know if and when she was rescued later. 

Many boatmen of Anchar lake and Khushal sarr offered their boats and oarsmen free for rescue, problem came in arranging to transport these boats to the other side of Srinagar. Some did make it and rescued lives. Those are our heroes.

A local journalist at Rajbagh watched the flood waters wash away everything metal and mass, collapsing walls and cracking buildings. Managed a boat rescue, but did not flee to safety yet. Saved hundreds of others first, till he could and only took a rest when all his energies had been drained. Humans are alive within us.

When waters started rising at Kashmir’s primary maternity hospital, Lal Ded, all medical and health staff fled leaving patients at the mercy of their luck and invading waters. When many infants and newborns died, their parents were forced to wrap-up their corpses like parcels awaiting burial in this flood fury. Patients and attendants survived for days by drinking from dextrose packets, local help came later, government help never. 

For three days my uncle’s family at Jawahar Nagar was stuck on the third floor attic, while waters had risen to their second floor. With three packets of bread, some biscuits and two bottles of water, four people crammed into the attic for more than three days and four unending nights, later sharing one packet of bread with their Sikh neighbor, who was also stuck on his roof top. They saw choppers fly low, cried for help, the crew looked down on them, sometimes cameras zooming over, yet none offered any help. They were eventually rescued on the fourth day by a boat. None of them had slept for those four nights, fearing that a house collapse would sink them into a nameless watery grave.

When a local boatman asked 8000 Rupees from my Delhi acquaintance to rescue his family from Bemina and the tractor guy took them for free from the shore to their safe place at Buchpora, even while his own house was submerged under waters. 

As the waters started rising around the Dal lake, especially near the northern foreshore road, I along with other volunteers rushed to help. As dwellers from the lower shoreline were fleeing in caravans, gathering whatever they could, one dweller told me how they had tried to contact their local MLA for help and how the politician had gone incommunicado deliberately. Many of these dwellers were later put by us in local homes nearby and some in the local school. All this by local community help, with no state support. 

Saw a elderly gentleman in my neighborhood get two large sacks of rice from home, leaving very little for his own family, and distributing them among the affected near northern foreshore of Dal. Further ahead near Buchpora a shopkeeper profiteered in this turmoil by virtually doubling rates for many items, like a vulture awaiting his opportunity. 

The old couple at RajBagh, whose children live in the west, were stuck on the top floor for three days and survived on a few packets of snacks and a jug of water. All their memories and treasures had sunk beneath when they fled for life. With the flood waters inundating all living floors, the elderly uncle, having been sick for long, did not even find any place for his frequent easing. When the Indian rescue teams came their way, they shouted for help, yet none of these teams obliged. Other times their two pairs of hands frantically waved at choppers overhead, yet no heed was paid.  With drinking water and hope of rescue diminishing, the couple feared their end and wept inconsolably in each other’s arms, also realizing that their corpses would never be found.  Eventually by third day afternoon the couple was rescued by some local boys on a ramshackle boat. The only thing they saved were a bunch of old photographs tucked away in her arms.

The first chopper sorties in Srinagar seemed to be group specific, evacuating tourists and non locals only. According to locals, even some early Indian rescue boats sought specific people from this devastation, in many instances at Shivpora, rescue teams somehow seemed to be driven by political or religious divide. A Hindu family refused being rescued while his Muslim neighbor had been ignored; the same neighbor had shared all his supplies with the Hindu family till the rescue boat had arrived. Later both were rescued. 

Every chopper sortie in Srinagar had an Indian camera and reporter team accompanying them, at times taking almost half the space in smaller choppers, thereby defeating the very purpose of this claimed rescue and reducing it to a PR exercise by India. Every food packet, every water bottle dropped would be accompanied by nationalistic jingoism ‘see how the great Indian state is rescuing Kashmiris’. Back in Delhi Hindu nationalists and KP trolls were busy declaring us as ‘ungrateful Kashmiris’, not realizing that even in this melee it were more non locals that Indian forces had rescued and flown out to safety. Reminded me of how the same ‘ungrateful Kashmiris’ had dispatched volunteer teams after natural calamities in Gujarat and elsewhere long back, yet none sought media fame or PR. 

To put all speculation to rest, the Indian government should make available in the public domain, details, names and time of rescue of all flood affected they rescued in Kashmir. That would clear a lot of doubts and jingoistic claims.

Every Indian news channels discussion on Kashmir flood would devote major part of their time on ‘Indian army valor in Kaaashmeer’ (guys get that pronunciation of Kashmir right first, please) and relentlessly bash the ‘invisible separatists’. “Where are the ‘separatists?’” Indian anchors would scream, hiding the fact that many of these very ‘separatists’ were in involved in major relief operations across Srinagar, far bigger relief than the massive Indian army had done, yet these ‘separatist relief efforts’ stood deliberately ignored by these channels. When news channels shouted ‘Where is Geelani?’ they would not tell you how he has been caged under house arrest by the Indian state for years now, limiting his communication and movement. Had Geelani been a free man, there is no doubt that local relief efforts organized by him would have been far more systematic and effective than any relief operations by the mammoth Indian state. This even while people like Geelani do not have access to resources and machinery like the Indian state has in Kashmir. 

Saw hundreds of volunteers provide food and medicine to thousands of affected across Srinagar, especially the downtown, north and west of Srinagar, where Indian rescue teams and its media did not bother to attend. Many of these relief camps had banners ‘We don’t need Indian choppers. Kashmiris stand united in tragedy’. Found two of these volunteers, brothers from Tengpora, who had lost their home in these floods, yet were here involved untiringly in rescuing others. They told me nothing was left of their home, yet saw the pain of other affected as greater than their own. 

The biggest tragedy of these floods was when India tried to buy Kashmiri nationalism over packets of expired biscuits and bottles of water; clumsy and meager rescue efforts those were packaged with tags of ‘Indian magnanimity’. A state will pretend to be magnanimous in relief only when they are extending help to non citizens, and by pretending that these rescue operations were beyond the duty of a state, India and its media only strengthened the idea of ‘Kashmiris are not Indian citizens’. Only in Kashmir does the duty of the state to safeguard and rescue its citizens assume the face of magnanimity and largesse.  

Heard two voices today, on the local radio broadcast brazenly lying to public, calming that all major relief camps across Srinagar were supported and sponsored by the government. Their lies did not end here; they even claimed there was no shortage of essential supplies in Srinagar, while we all knew how common people were virtually starving. Ironically these radio lies were being heard by me while I was travelling with a volunteer group in a vehicle across the length of Srinagar and knew firsthand about the ground situation.  

Across many areas of Batmaloo, Bemina, Qamarwari, Anchar, Tengpora, Firdousabad, Habak, Shanpora, Byepass, those I visited during the past two days (13th & 14th ) found all relief camps and efforts were local community driven, all medical camps (except for one near the army camp of Tatto ground, run by Indian forces) were managed by volunteers. Animal carcasses lay scattered even in places where water levels had greatly receded and vehicular movement was somewhat possible.  Earlier morning called the municipal commissioner on phone to tell him about the threat of epidemic from these carcasses and heaps of garbage that had not been removed for days. He assured the same old ‘have taken note and will do the needful soon’ that I had also heard from him some days back. Hollow words, playing again ! 

Over inundated roads people drove vehicles like boats on wheels, desperate to reach somewhere, to rescues families, to carry the ill or gather all they can to survive. And all these roads, crossings, flooded pathways were managed by local volunteers, all traffic management systems had since collapsed and with it the massive police force that this state nurtures and pays, had also evaporated as if in thin air. 

At the Soura filling station saw a seemingly unending queue for petrol, desperate people carrying all they could, cans, bottles or pushing vehicles, thirsty for some fuel. The fuel dispensers looked like fortresses, invaded by ant seeming humans, like a molehill rising in the middle of an industrious queue. And among this queue saw an infamous police officer, known for his ruthlessness, in plain clothes, pretending to be one of us, hiding his face not wanting to be recognized, wanting to erase his other identity momentarily. But we know such faces resume their rough masks once the state starts flexing again. 

In despair even crude efforts come handy. At Bemina and Tengpora people had made crude rafts, of empty plastic cans then tied them to wood planks, of tin sheets tied to inflated tubes, of ladders and planks tied to more tubes, of oars made from ply sheets, oars made from wood panels, even floor wipers turned into oars. And these were efforts of survival by people who had been left at the mercy of fate by an anarchic government. How else would people survive in such places where even nine days after the floods, the water levels were neck deep with no means of communication or supplies delivery? Evidently the government had already written off and forgotten people here and elsewhere. 

On radio heard a senior bureaucrat claim that ‘his government had arranged for and distributed medicine across flood affected areas, wherever was necessary’. Then wondered had ‘his government’ already credited the millions of rupees worth of medicine contributed and distributed by civilians to the affected (including large supplies of medicine arranged by my sister and her friends), to ‘his government’ kitty? Next this gentleman would credit ‘his government’ for the naturally decreasing water levels too.

Have more stories of this catastrophe, but I need to end this page here, hoping that a new day will bring us more hope, more reasons to fight for our lives, more lines to write.

From the sunk city.
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Author: The Speaking Chinar
•9:38 PM

Tragedies bring out the real in us; tragedies also unmask and rip off the façade from many pretentions. When waters were submerging Kashmir, the first thing that sunk were its governance systems, everything else took to waters after that. Even while these floods and the weather conditions had been forewarned, a callous indifference and silence ruled, as they have been ruling during all other catastrophes in Kashmir. 

Early on, last week, as south Kashmir started caving in to waters, it had become clear that the flood was unrelenting. On Friday the 5th of September, envisaging the likely scale of this tragedy, pro freedom leader Mirwaiz Umar gave a call for volunteers and aid, to undertake flood relief measures. This was the first organized relief effort to have been started in Srinagar even as early indicators of devastation had still not woken up the government. Into Saturday as water levels rose, as did the criticism against government inaction, the CM was seen to tour some flood affected areas starting with the Indian army 15 corps at Badami Bagh Srinagar. Yet except for the few tours by CM’s entourage, there was no visible plan of action on ground to deal with this crisis. Evening when a Chinar tree collapsed to rain fury near RajBagh, the CM was, in tow with media, personally supervising the clearance of the tree debris. In such times when the magnitude of a disaster is huge and unfolding, events like removal of tree debris should have been left to local officials, while the governance head should be ideally working out a plan of action with his team. By next day as Jehlum waters pushed into more habitations and took with it everything that came into its way, Kashmir was sinking, abandoned by those who claimed to be its masters. Overnight this government had vanished into thin air and everyone was left to fend for self. This failure of governance could be best exemplified by the fact that when waters started rising at Kashmir’s primary maternity hospital, Lal Ded, all medical and health staff fled leaving patients at the mercy of invading waters. When many infants and newborns died, parents were forced to wrap-up their corpses like parcels, awaiting burial in this flood fury. When the CM was broadcast by cameras supervising the tree debris removal, did he even for a second think of the hundreds of patients and infants stuck at the maternity hospital which was just a few hundred meters away from the tree debris site and very vulnerable since this hospital, like many others, lay close to the banks of overflowing Jehlum? Tragically even days after the rains had stopped there was no rescue effort from the government at this hospital, even as Indian choppers flew by, where patients and attendants survived by local help only. Elsewhere in worst flood affected areas like Jawahar Nagar, RajBagh, Natipora, Solina, Nowgam, Batmaloo, Bemina, Batapora, Dalgate, Tengpora etc, the initial help that emerged came only from local volunteers. Not only had the government been forewarned about such a flood few years back, also Srinagar is clearly marked by flood prone areas v/s those where flood waters are unlikely to reach. Thus the government could have clearly chalked rescue & relief measures also identifying areas where the flood affected could be temporarily shifted. Tragically with governments in Kashmir always been more concerned about own survival than of commoners, such measures do not seem a priority for them. Just days before these floods, local media had reported a senior minister in the present government, Taj Mohidin blaming one of his ministerial colleague Sham Lal for deliberately failing the ‘flood prevention projects’ even while the government was well aware of its serious implications. Plain failure of the government or deliberate attempts to put Kashmir to risk?  

As New Delhi took note of the flood tragedy in Kashmir, NDRF and Indian army teams started some rescue efforts, but with lack of guidance and knowledge about local areas and approaches, many of these teams were soon going aimlessly. Initially such rescue efforts proved to be feeble and clumsy, mainly directed by instinct and personal pointers and accused of being selective in rescue. Locals clam that Indian teams gave priority to rescue tourists and non Kashmiris, ignoring most locals they passed by. With the rescue efforts by Indian forces having reached less than 10% of the flood affected, in major flood areas it were the local volunteers who rescued an overwhelming majority of people, away from media glare or nationalistic PR promotion. Even the food & water packets air dropped by Indian forces (even in the very limited areas they operated) it is estimated that more than 50% were wasted since either these landed into flood waters where the affected could not wade to or were destroyed on impact on ground. Locals also found that many of these food packets were expired.

The government is not the only one to be blamed here, while it takes the major share of blame for its inaction and apathy. Introspecting, some of the blame for vandalizing nature lay with common people too. Just days before these floods were gathering, I personally witnessed locals near the Dal basin of Saida Kadal and its interiors refilling Dal lake waters illegally to create land for encroachment. And this has been happening for many years now, brazenly with the tacit support of local politicians, who nurture such lake grabbers for vote banks. It has been estimated that the waters of Dal and Nigeen lake have shrunk by almost 40% due to encroachment and refilling. This very illegally forced contraction of the lake resulting in greatly decreasing the water retention capacity of these water bodies. Elsewhere across Kashmir the water carrying capacity of Jehlum and its flood channels have greatly been reduced by silt and shrinking embankments. 

The flood affected, especially ones who lost everything, like other IDP’s (internally displaced people) having been uprooted from their dwellings, will have to start from scratch. And the government of India will have to treat them exactly like it treats other IDP’s like the Pandit migrants. The same kind of rehabilitation assistance in restructuring lives and rebuilding homes is needed for these floods affected IDP’s that it offers KP migrants. And by providing equal treatment to people affected by calamities in Kashmir, India will only prove that its approach to the people of this state is not limited by religion or creed. 

Now that flood waters are receding and people are starting to gather the pieces of their lives, there will be claims and counter claims by politicians, but fact remains that NO political party, especially those supporting New Delhi here (hence having ways and means to act in Kashmir) helped in any of the rescue efforts in the valley. Not surprisingly again, what the India media relayed from Kashmir was a one-sided picture of the rescue efforts here, many pathetically promoting it as a PR exercise. While the Indian forces did meagerly contribute in the rescue efforts, yet they were not the only ones involved, in fact an overwhelming majority of flood affected people in the valley were rescued by civilian volunteers. The Indian media has not relayed how hundreds of thousands of people had been rescued and were being taken care of by volunteers in areas of downtown, north Srinagar, civil lines, in colleges, schools, local community centers, mosques and all this without any government help. 

As corpses are being retrieved from receding waters, there has to be a postmortem of the systems that failed this state again and again. So huge is the trust deficit against the state here that most people have been asking New Delhi and other relief agencies to direct their relief efforts, if any, bypassing the state government, for otherwise they believe not much of this will reach the flood victims.  Last heard the CM claimed to the Indian media that ‘his government had set up 137 relief centers catering to above a lac affected’. He could provide credence to such claims by uploading details of these relief camps and their operations on the internet. His government could also take off much of its criticism by providing details of the pre-flood measures it had undertaken and its post flood relief measures, including details of people rescued by state officials. Until we see these details, this claim of ‘state relief’ will be treated on ground as just ‘political talk’. Couple of days ago when a senior government minister and NC general secretary was asked by an Indian TV channel about criticism on governments inaction he replied “this criticism of government inaction (in flood relief) is being done by vested interests”. Very true Sir, every flood affected who lost his home and hearth has a ‘vested interest’ in speaking about how your government failed us all. Those who survived these floods, survived in spite of the apathy of this government, and those who died in these floods could have been saved had it not been for political arrogance and governance indifference.

One flood day,
From sunk Srinagar.
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