Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Jhelum’s repeated warnings

After the last year’s destructive flood which reflected the River’s annoyance, it has given two more warnings before it strikes in the most devastating final way!

Jhelum’s repeated warnings                                                                        
The River Jhelum, Vitasta or Yveth has been the lifeline of Kashmir Valley from the earliest times. The entire Kashmir civilisation has been growing along the banks of the River and its tributaries.
After the mythological Kashyapa drained the Sati Sar by killing the demon Jalodhbhava at Baramulla, the River has been written in the very first line of the thousands of years old history of Kashmir. Like the Sholokhov’s “Quiet Flows the Don”.
Jhelum too has been quietly flowing and observing the happenings on its banks. However, it often turns furious when too many sins get washed into it!
The River which gave life to Kashmir has been vandalised and desecrated by us. Muck and filth of almost entire Kashmir flows into the River. Its banks have been encroached. For last half a century or so no one has bothered to dredge it and take away the silt. Over and above everything else its flood basin has been snatched and converted into colonies. Where else will it go except overflow its banks and sometimes may even change course.
Last year’s flood was Nature’s backlash in the form of a furious and desperate River trying to find its natural course. Reportedly during the flood the width of the River in some places in South Kashmir was few kilometres. It was flowing like a sheet of water taking away everything in its path. All the experts opined that the disaster was due to human greed and negligence of authorities to take preventive measures all these years in spite of the warnings of various experts. One had expected that the government would give the top most priority to prevention of future floods. Unfortunately, nothing seems to have been done regarding dredging and desliting. Neither the embankments have been strengthened.
The Met Office has again issued warning about the possibility of intermittent rains throughout the summer. They have admitted to the occurrence of climate change which is dangerously combining the effects of monsoons and western disturbances. We may be in for many more floods. After, the main flood of last September, there were two more which kept the people on their toes. These were warnings from Jhelum to the people to mend their ways. People seem to have developed a flood phobia. This will continue till some concrete measures are taken on ground on a large scale. Merely being alert and asking people to leave for safer places is no solution but a quick way to escape the basic responsibility. Delhi seems least concerned about this aspect of the situation. Allegedly, the Nature has come to their rescue to subdue Kashmiris. They will not be accused of human rights violations for these natural disasters. Nature’s elements do not need any AFSPA!
Kashmir is desperately looking for a Suya! During the time of Avanti Varman, it was Suya who initiated the extensive flood prevention measures. At present there is no hope to locate someone like Suya. The people will have to do their own bidding. During the last flood, it was the youth of Kashmir who came forward to rescue the people. In the absence of their untiring efforts, there may have been thousands of casualties. They may again have to step in to ensure on ground measures for prevention of future floods. If the youth all along the length of the River take up the job of desilting themselves, the capacity of the River will increase. Same is the case with flood spill over channel and so many other water bodies facing extinction. Again someone has to give the lead.
One wonders why the so called leaders of the popular movement can’t take up this very people friendly constructive activity. If Kashmir gets destroyed and washed away by vandalisation of its environment, “Azadi” will have no meaning! On one hand these people refuse to recognize the government as the genuine peoples’ representative while on the other hand they expect them to take all people friendly measures. A strange dichotomy! If Mahatma Gandhi could defy the British by making salt out of the sea and spun cloth on charkhas, why can’t our so called leaders take initiatives to safeguard our environment with massive peoples’ participation? It can’t be classified as “anti-national” activity!
Incidentally, Kashmir has lots of multi-millionaires who could easily sponsor environment friendly measures including desilting of the River and other water bodies. There are over a million unemployed youth who could even get some employment.
Unfortunately, we have brain washed our youth for white collar jobs and they prefer to have the lowest possible government jobs rather than work with their own hands. There is no dignity for manual labour! The new generation needs to come out of this artificially created psychological barrier and take the initiative as they did during the actual flood. That may be our only and the ultimate hope!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Invincible Kashmiris!

Historically no one has been able to completely subdue Kashmiris. They have risen again and again to the utter disgust of their outside oppressors

The Invincible Kashmiris!
Webster dictionary defines “Invincible” as “incapable of being conquered, overcome, or subdued”. In the historical context, the word describes Kashmiris very appropriately. From the earliest times, Kashmiris have faced both manmade and natural calamities.
They have faced floods, famines, earthquakes, epidemics and foreign aggressors. However, they have never been subdued or cowed down, neither by the natural calamities nor by the human oppression. They may have gone down sometimes but they rise again and again! 
Kashmiris have been called timid, cowards, cheats, liars and greedy. Sir Walter Lawrence in the “Valley of Kashmir”, though mentioning the bad traits of Kashmiris states that these weaknesses are not by nature but due to an extremely long period of external suppression.
According to him Kashmiris are good at heart and it is the survival instinct which has made them timid and cowardly. Tyndale Biscoe in his book, “Kashmir in Sunlight and Shade” observes that the amount of oppression Kashmiris have undergone over the ages, if the British had faced the same, they would have lost their manhood!
For over last four centuries, they have been oppressed by Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras. They were reduced to virtual wretches and lost all their good qualities. They did rebel to change their destiny many times but failed.
The main misfortune of the people has been their betrayal by their own kinsfolk. There have been and there continue to be “Black sheep” within the Kashmir society ready to sell even their mothers for a price. All the foreign oppressors got a foot hold because of these local collaborators. The external oppressors always scout for ready collaborators by patronising the weaknesses of character in a person. They bring out the worst and suppress the good qualities.
During last 68 years people on both sides of the divide have exploited the weaknesses of our character. Sir Walter Lawrence in his book the “Valley of Kashmir” while commenting on the character of local people observes that two generations of a just and strong rule will bring out the best in a Kashmiri. Unfortunately, we are still to see that just and strong rule! 
However, there was some awakening and a possible emancipation during the last century in thirties. Had there been no partition, Kashmiris may have been able to regain their lost sovereignty.
Even at the time of the partition they had a chance to reclaim their independent status but their leaders for their own vested interests let them down and put them in such a mess that there appears no escape from a virtual political whirlpool generated by their two warring neighbours. Still people seem to be taking this untenable situation in their stride and continue with their daily lives. They continue to pine for ultimate emancipation.
The last year’s flood supposed to be the worst in a century severely devastated Kashmir especially its capital, Srinagar. Going through different parts of Srinagar one was terribly shaken by the extent of the devastation.
There was general feeling that the city would take at least 10 years to recover. However, other day while going through the posh shopping areas of Residency Road and Polo View, one could never imagine that these are the same places which had seen almost total destruction! Anyone going through these areas first time can never imagine the status of these immediately after the last flood.
The enterprising and invincible Kashmiris have taken everything in their stride and are going full steam ahead regardless of totally unsympathetic attitude of the authorities both at the state and the central level. In most of the affected localities people are busy trying to restore their properties and their lives on their own! 
In fact, the Central Government has cut a practical joke on Kashmiris by giving aid which cannot even be called the proverbial peanuts! They had an opportunity of a lifetime to end the extreme alienation of Kashmiris due to harsh and repressive measures in vogue for last over 25 years.
However, they seem to believe in cowing down and subduing people rather than winning them over. Probably they have forgotten the saying of the most famous illustrious son of Kashmir, Kalhana, “The country of Kashmir may be conquered by the force of spiritual merit, but not by the force of soldiers!”
This should be evident from the thousands of mourners attending the funerals of the militants slain by the security forces in various encounters. The recent total shutdown to protest against the Sopore killings should be an eye opener. The new generation of Kashmiris is totally uncompromising and invincible. They are all leaders in themselves and take their own decisions. They are Kashmir’s future hope!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Kashmir’s Murky Waters!

Last year’s flood, the worst of the century not only inundated the city of sun in murky waters but brought out the muck which has been enveloping Kashmiris for last 68 years now!

Kashmir’s Murky Waters!File Photo
Witnessing the Associated Media film “Kashmir: Into the Murky Waters” on the last September flood was not only reliving of a personal experience but a first-hand account of all the happenings including everything that was going on behind the scenes.
The film is an indictment of all the concerned people because of whose failure the disaster occurred. In fact, they should be indicted for criminal negligence and prosecuted.
Unfortunately, the murky waters have been flowing all over Kashmir for almost 68 years now! These are in the form of a perennial uncertain situation with total lack of accountability. No one is accountable to no one! There is an absolute free for all!
The last year’s flood can be termed truly as “Nature’s Backlash”! We have totally vandalised our fragile environment and ecology due to our insatiable material greed. River Jhelum earlier called Vitasta and locally known as Vyeth has been Kashmir’s life line for centuries. It used to be pure and clean. People would drink its water.
However, it became murky after washing the sins of Kashmir’s black sheep for last 68 years or so. Kashmir’s so called elite was the main culprit. Incidentally, Jhelum in its fury totally covered with muck the poshest areas where the majority of the deviant elite had been residing.
For all these years no one bothered about the condition and the health of the River. Its bed got totally silted. Even the spill over channel got filled up. Its embankments were usurped and vandalised by construction of hotels, guest houses, private houses and even mosques! Worst things happened with its flood basin. It was converted into colonies and even some government offices were set up in it. The irony is that the authority entrusted with the planning and development of the city of Srinagar set up its office in the flood basin of the River!
Apart from the criminal negligence of the concerned in failing to taking urgent preventive measures, during and after the flood, there was total failure on the part of the government. In fact, one was not sure whether any government existed in Kashmir! Omar Abdullah was shown on TV throwing “Bananas” to the marooned people from the state helicopter.
One was reminded about the “Rise of the Planet of Apes”. He should thank God that the people did not pull down his chopper like the Apes do in the movie! This “Banana” episode reminded one about the “Banana Republics” of South America and Omar Abdullah rightly earned the name of the “Banana Chief Minister”!
The worst tragedy is that even the new government too is in deep slumber. For over nine months nothing substantial seems to have been done in regard to prevention of future floods. Its first priority should have been the prevention of future floods. The only news one got was that ISRO has been asked to undertake satellite flood zoning of Kashmir which may take over a year or so.
As regards dredging of the River, desilting of the flood spill over channel, strengthening of the embankments, and setting up of dewatering stations above the flood level no news is coming out. Even the drains and dewatering system appears to be without any major change. Apart from the city getting water-logged repeatedly, there are still some areas in the valley water logged from the previous flood. 
In the movie it is shown that a report regarding measures for flood prevention has been shuttling between New Delhi and Srinagar for over three years! Some engineers had predicted the possibility of a disastrous flood but no one seems to have been seriously bothered about the subject.
In fact, even the MET Office warning about flash floods was ignored by the “Banana Government”! Now that they have seen the face of the disaster, the first task for the present government should be to get along with the implementation of the most urgently needed flood prevention measures. The task can be given to some resourceful engineering companies in the field on a turnkey basis to be completed in a definite time-frame.
The Chief Minister has all the residuary powers under the constitution and after identifying a resourceful organisation even if from abroad can ask them to go ahead dispensing all lengthy paper formalities. However, that needs political will on the part of the government. Does this government have such a will? That is the million dollar question! One has to keep the fingers crossed and probably wait for some more “Murky Waters”. However, the next time waters can not only be murky but “bloody” too!