In Kashmir, politicising a disaster!

The politically motivated response of the Indian state to the Kashmir floods with respect to relief operations is evident if we compare it with the response of the same Indian state to natural disasters in other Indian states

In Kashmir, politicising a disaster!

Tavseef Mairaj

In early September this year, Kashmir faced the worst natural disaster in its modern history. More than 300 people died and losses were put at above 20 billion US $ in the floods that deluged major parts of the Kashmir valley including the capital city Srinagar. The local government termed it as a 'disaster of international magnitude'. Normally, when a disaster of such a magnitude hits any part of the world, the government of the country not only generously approves financial aid to help people rebuild the community but also asks for help internationally from aid agencies willing to help. In Kashmir's case, however, both the efforts have been absent – thanks to the government of India. On the contrary, Indian government is asked the state government in Kashmir to pay over 100 million US $ for the sham rescue operations its forces carried out during the floods in Kashmir. Call it a tragedy or a comedy of errors.

During the floods, the people of Kashmir, in a display of exemplary courage and compassion, actively participated in the rescue operations. Risking their lives while attempting to save others', the youth acted as the saviors of an entire nation, evacuating people to safer places irrespective of who the people were. Civilians – locals as well as from India, military personnel and as well  the tourists who were in Kashmir at that time. This fact was acknowledged by several people from India who were stuck in Kashmir at the time of floods and admired the selfless spirit of those who volunteered themselves to save people.

India, however, used this time of distress as an opportunity to gain publicity internationally and allegiance from the local people in lieu of the token rescue operations its forces performed. Indian media channels, known for toeing to the government's line with respect to Kashmir, devoted prime time coverage to glorifying the Indian forces in Kashmir. Some even went to extent of actually demanding the Kashmir should shun their anti-India stance because Indian forces saved them during the time of this national disaster. A Hindi news channel opined that Kashmiris should be ashamed of their 'separatist' feelings given that they asked for help from India. Personal accounts narrated by the survivors, however, paint an altogether different story of the rescue operations. In almost all cases the survivors narrated that it was the people themselves who had used used different means to survive and live through the deluge. Surveyed conducted by reliable sources concluded that the percentage of rescue operations in which Indian forces were involved amount to a mere 3 % of the total rescue operations. In some places even the personnel of Indian armed forces were saved by locals, otherwise known for their anti-India sentiment, during the time of floods. This fact was acknowledged by the army itself which came out with a statement admiring the Kashmiri people for their courage and selfless work during the time of distress.

The politically motivated response of the Indian state to the Kashmir floods with respect to relief operations is evident if we compare it with the response of the same Indian state to natural disasters in other Indian states. The Indian government headed by a hardline Hindu nationalist is yet to announce a relief or rehabilitation package for the 1.5 million families directly affected by the floods, apart from the USD 150 million package announced by the Prime Minister on his visit to the valley on 23 October, nearly two months after the floods. The package was announced just a week before the dates for elections in Kashmir were announced and is hence seen by many as an attempt by the Prime Minister to garner some support for his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in the forthcoming elections, in Kashmir where it traditionally has had a zero support base. This was a visit which was marketed by the Indian PM himself on twitter by saying that he will celebrate the Diwali festival with the people of Kashmir. On the contrary, the time during the visit was devoted to meeting Indian army personnel stationed at the Siachen glacier and later meeting a selected group of people. 

The devious politics surrounding this disaster can be gauged from the fact that while the Indian Prime Minister in his UNGA speech stressed that all efforts should be directed towards relief and rehabilitation process in Kashmir, his government blocked international aid from different quarters to reach Kashmir. So many international relief organisations were explicitly not allowed to operate in Kashmir during the floods. Adding to the irony is the statement of the Indian PM in which he said that the Indian government was ready to help relief operations in Pakistan-Admistered Kashmir but failed even to reach to the people in the part of Kashmir which it considers its integral part.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 28 Ekim 2014, 09:53

Muhammed Öylek