While we are collectively braving the onslaught of the flood, let’s not forget to perform the ‘last rites’ of the ‘deceased’ government
Hit by the flood fury at home, an angry man shouted in utter desperation in a Srinagar street while trying to get his family evacuated: Pariv Sa Yath Nabkaar Sarkaaras Jinaaze (Let’s offer funeral prayers for this inept government!).” A young boy joined the chorus: Su Haez Chukh Poromut Teli (That has been offered long back!). The dialogue ended too quickly as a group of youth came with a boat to help the man rescue his family. While his outburst looked like a perfect description of the government, it reflected its mass failure in the flood-hit areas and the consequent public rage against it. And this failure was, as always, expected.
When a spokesman of the ruling National Conference—some Junaid Mattu— appeared on a television news channel in the midst of Kashmir floods, he talked about the “real heroes” around. These, he said, were the “armed forces and the youth of Kashmir.” As if the viewers and the anchor didn’t hear it properly, he went on to repeat his words loudly: “Yes, the real heroes in the flood fury are armed forces, the Indian Army, the Air Force and the youth of Kashmir.” While I, for a while, reserve my comments about the “real heroes”, Mattu was right insofar as restraining to include the state government—run by his party—in his ‘list’ of “real heroes around.” And that is where I found him factually correct, because the first casualty of the flood fury was indeed the inept government—its inept ministers, its inept police and its inept administration. So while we are collectively braving the onslaught of the deadly floods, let’s not forget to perform the ‘last rites’ of this ‘deceased’ government. May it rest in peace!
All tragedies, they say, have lessons to offer. So the ‘death’ of the state government in the ravaging floods across Jammu and Kashmir, which claimed many precious lives and caused unprecedented damage to properties and businesses, should serve as an eye-opener for us—especially to those who line up outside the polling booths to ‘elect’ it. There can be no big a myth than this: that the government in Jammu and Kashmir “works tirelessly for the people’s welfare”—something that we are off and on fed by the state’s pro-India politicians who have looted the State to the extent that it doesn’t today even have a dozen rescue boats, a hundred or so life-saving jackets or half a dozen functional satellite phones of its own while it claims—in its daily press notes—to have “brought infrastructure revolution in Jammu and Kashmir in the past six years.”
And read on:
Which “pro-people and elected government” allows its people—the way the Omar Abdullah-led Government did—to fend for themselves when it is a matter of their life and death? When the flood fury hit Kashmir, particularly the Srinagar City, on that fateful Sunday, the floods had already wreaked havoc in the South Kashmir districts of Islamabad and Kulgam in the previous two days, apart from certain areas on the city outskirts, including Bemina. The water level of river Jhelum was already running much above the “danger mark” at both Sangam in Islamabad and Ram Munshibagh in Srinagar. Why didn’t this so-called “pro-people government” sound the red alert across Srinagar well in advance to allow people to move to safer places? Was it sleeping? Or, enjoying the show? Yes, it did make some announcements for Srinagar areas “falling close to the banks of river Jhelum.” But when? When the Jhelum had already breached and the waters were making inroads into these areas at an alarming pace. Why was the Chief Minister—who was until then busy in photo opportunities to show that he is “leading from the front” in his cavalcade—conspicuously missing on the ground this time? Why didn’t he mobilize his men and machinery, particularly the police force—the way he mobilizes it to enforce curfews and restrictions across Kashmir time and again—to inform people to vacate the flood-prone areas?
Yes, when the floods hit Kashmir with a great ferocity, his government’s failure on the ground was well within the expected lines. There was no communication network. No electricity. No road connectivity. Nothing. But what did he do till the communication lines—at least up to Sunday afternoon—were on? NOTHING! Why didn’t he, till the phone networks worked, mobilize the non-affected district administrations and police force to reach Srinagar’s flooded areas? Because his government had already ‘died’ by then. So when he suddenly attempted ‘fire-fighting by air’ after three days (using his chopper to airdrop bread and bananas), it only reflected his failure on the ground; it only reflected that he was rattled by the news reports of his absence; that he was desperately trying to regain the lost field; that he was himself airdropping some bread and bananas because his administration and police—whose job it was actually—was nowhere to be seen. But here too, before this damage control exercise would be taken seriously by anyone, he had already failed his people by putting the entire blame for the flood fury on them—exactly like he blamed the people for the Kousarnag yatra mess. The Chief Minister, instead of candidly acknowledging his mass failure in areas of rescue and relief, conveniently said that “People were warned in advance to evacuate, but they didn’t”—a blatant lie that only exposed his inconsiderateness. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that had the people of Kashmir, especially the youth, left it for the Chief Minister’s message that “rescue will come, I promise, just wait”, the number of human casualties would have exceeded 50,000 by rough estimates.
Now, the question of ‘real heroes’. The NC spokesman while showering his all out praise for the armed forces told only half of the story. The other half is here; the story that the youth of Kashmir, who have to bear the brunt of his government, were the sole rescuers of the people; the story that these armed forces restored to brazen selectiveness in the rescue operation in Srinagar and elsewhere; the story that they selectively lifted non-local labourers and tourists from the marooned areas and dropped them at the Srinagar Airport for photo ops; the story that they, in connivance with a large section of Indian media, wanted to project themselves as the “only saviors” of the people; the story that they airdropped expired food in the flooded areas; the story that people of Kashmir, in several localities, out-rightly rejected the Army’s help and aid; and, of course, the fact that this so-called ‘rescue operation’ doesn’t absolve the armed forces of the crimes they have committed on the people of Kashmir.
Back to the basic issue of the ‘dead’ government. Today, when the water levels are receding, the State administration is nowhere in sight. The Srinagar Municipal Corporation is missing. The Flood Control department seems to have been washed away by the floods. The Health department had already drowned. The Chief Minister appears to have lost his grip over his administration. So when the government is already no more, let’s endorse the man’s outburst: ‘let’s offer funeral prayers for this inept government.’ We must do it as a matter of courtesy. May it rest in peace!