By K.N. Pandita
Natural calamity of massive magnitude has befallen Kashmir. Floods are not unknown but the one in place is unprecedented.
The State government is paralyzed; it cannot cope with the magnitude of the disaster. Even the State Disaster Response Force personnel, raised with central funding, draw salary but are not provided with any wherewithal to fight the disaster. When floods struck, the SDRF was conspicuous by its absence.
For three or four years in the past the SDRF has been holding meetings and consultations on what equipment it needs to have at its disposal, coming neither to any decision nor any action. Our paper tigers are mighty and majestic.
Despite reminders from the National Disaster Response Force, the State wing has not been able to draw even the Disaster Response Plan. The God is Compassionate and Merciful and hence no possibility of any natural disaster. The encaged God must be laughing under his sleeves.
Totally taken aback by the faceless state administration, the Prime Minister, immediately, after his one-day visit and aerial survey of the situation, ordered the armed forces to undertake the massive rescue and relief operation in Kashmir.
PM’s visit was immediately followed by the visit of the Army Chief, who, along with the GOC-in-C of Northern Command and Corps Commanders made a quick aerial survey to assess the situation on the ground in Kashmir. Orders were issued to the field commanders to deploy personnel and equipment and all resources at their disposal to rescue the beleaguered civilians in the vast areas flooded by the gushing waters.
Indian Air Force swung into action. Dozens of choppers and other types of aircraft have been put into action round the clock carrying uninterrupted sorties day and night in which they lift the beleaguered people to safer places, drop bottles of drinking water, packets of biscuits and medicines wherever they see stranded people clustered in groups and crying for help.
Brave soldiers of Indian army jumped into body deep waters to save the children, women and old and infirm people, evacuate them from their submerged houses and bring them to safer places. Army has established relief camps, medical camps and other facilities to come to the help of thousands of affected people.
More than 10 lakh people are affected and more than 50,000 persons have been rescued and evacuated. Equipment needed to fight the rising water has been lifted from different parts of the country and now each boat in one turn rescues 12-15 persons and makes rescue trips round the clock. Boats reach the houses where people have moved to third or the fourth storey of the house to escape being washed away by flood. 300 casualties have been reported so far though the toll is likely to rise further.
The Prime Minister has appealed to all States to contribute to the relief fund for Kashmir and they are responding. He has declared it national calamity.
The good thing is that the separatist and secessionist leadership did not give a call asking people to refuse any assistance from Indian army including its perilous rescue operation as disallowed by religion. They did not give the call to people to boycott all help from the Indian army and wait till help came from Pakistan via the High Commissioner in Delhi.
One better thing is that the dissidents and their sympathizers inside and outside the government did not give a call to show black flags to the Indian soldiers and airmen coming to rescue them. Nor did the Kashmiri youth come out in large groups to pelt stones on the rescuing Indian troops.
It is the eleventh day of flood and the fraternity leadership in the valley has not opened its mouth in sympathy with the affected people leave aside appreciating what the Indian army is doing for them.
No Awqaf, no Muslim Trust, no local philanthropic or religious organization has come out with any promise of help to the stranded and shattered population of the city of Srinagar and of rural areas where calamity has struck with vengeance.
No Kashmir Diaspora in Saudi Arabia, Gulf State or in western countries that loses no time in promising massive financial support to “freedom fighting Kashmiris” has said a word of sympathy to the people at large. No hawala dealers who provide millions of rupees to the so-called freedom fighters have come out with any promise of help to the beleaguered Kashmiris.
Why is Geelani Sahib silent on the question whether rescue operation, material support, supply of essential goods and medicines etc. by the Indian army to the valley population of predominantly Sunni Wahhabi orientation of Kashmir is halal or haram meaning allowed or disallowed by sharia.
What have those to say to Indian Army’s operation Rahat who go on crying foul against the presence of Indian army in Kashmir, and day in and day out demand that AFSPA be withdrawn and army go back to barracks or vacate Kashmir. Why are they observing the silence of the grave?
And what have those to say about Indian army’s presence in Kashmir who call them by provocative epithets like “occupational forces”, “forces unleashing suppression and oppression” and “forces committing innumerable atrocities on Kashmiris”.
Services rendered by the Indian army to the people of the State is a golden chapter in the history of any army in the world conducting rescue operation in an area that has met with natural calamity of immense magnitude. When normalcy returns to Kashmir, people will watch the footage of rescue operations and then they will ask a question to themselves: “Is Indian army our friend or fie?”
This event of unforgettable importance amply demonstrates the fundamentals of Indian democracy and secular system. It brings home to each and every Kashmiri that their stalwart leadership had great vision when in the event of withdrawal of British colonial power in 1947, they decided to be on the side of democracy, secularism and egalitarianism. Narendra Modi, whom his political detractors profiled as partisan politician rises in the eyes of Kashmir in his new and original avatar as the leader of the masses after what he has done to save lakhs of Kashmiris from the clutches of death and destruction.