The blinded childhood
It was an unbearably steamy July afternoon in Boston, the kind of sweaty day that makes people sullen with discomfort. I was back to home from college. I sat on the wooden stool and began to recall the last summer 'Intifada' in Kashmir.
I was discussing a day before with my father to visit Kashmir after 2014 deluge when everything was devastated and render many people homeless and helpless.
Most of the people were helped by locals, not by the state government, however, the state government provided some relief in terms of monetary help which was not sufficient for each household in Kashmir to recreate the structures dampened by the flash flood.
On the other hand, the courage that people, especially from the downtown area, have shown was remarkable and incomparable. That submerged scenes in the valley were horrible and gave me sleepless nights together.
In 2016, when I arrived Srinagar, the summer sun-heat was everywhere, people were jostling here and there and some were in search of shade or water to quench the thirst. As I stepped onto the local bus up Lal Chowk. I was startled by the driver, a middle-aged man with an enthusiastic smile, who welcomed me with a friendly, greeting in Kashmiri, "wa'aray?"
The strange thing that I found on the bus was that each passenger locked into the morose mood of the day, no one seemed happy, everyone was hanging their faces low, and gloomy of no reason. I was told by my cousin that people do not smile in Srinagar. People are not happy inwards due to political uncertainty. There are no hangout places where people can meet and socialise themselves.
It was quite strange to me that to find people sad and gloomy everywhere. This memory of that encounter stayed with me even after a year of my visit. That evening, Srinagar was pleasant with the breeze that chilled the vacant roads, moistened by the drizzle at Boulevard Road. I saw a reluctant guest at the nearby hotel silently passing through the empty street, vague about how far he can enjoy under the blessed shower.
Kashmir's climate is unpredictable so as the situation, anything can happen here anytime. No one can predict the different patterns of the situation, there is calm and next there is violence. There are reports about the promotion of tourism and next, there are reports of terrorism.
The state is in throes, only those people who are employed or occupied in the mainland India try to highlight the pain and sufferings of Kashmir besides earning a livelihood. Those who remained in the valley find it difficult to move other states and find employment for them. There are various factors that compel young people to switch from native state to others state of India for the search of employment.
The government of state Jammu and Kashmir promotes education and developmental projects, but deprive young people of jobs, deplete their self-esteem, and limit their search for a purpose to a history of 'bargain', freedom sentiment, street commotion and insurgency related bouts.
In this process, many people get benefited and procure scholarships abroad to study and never return back to uplift the beleaguered state of Jammu and Kashmir. The purpose of those educators and scholars have to contribute to the state and its people by helping them in finding employment avenues so that they could live and earn a decent living.
The problem is gender based as well in Kashmir, girls face most problems in moving outside Kashmir, as traditionally girls tend to serve in home and in-laws but due to modernization and education the primitive perception is changing and parents are sending their daughters to the other parts of India and help them to choose career of their choice.
Not only this, people have found Facebook, twitter and other social media networking sites as the medium to express anger against brutalities committed by soldiers in Kashmir. The online brigade instead taking violent means of protest express their views and opinions on Facebook peacefully without a physical harming.
However, one can argue that only those people can express anger on Facebook who are well acquainted with technology and can handle these tools effectively. On the other hand, Kashmir is convulsed time and again in lethal violence as some people express their anger through stone pelting with security forces at various places in Kashmir almost every day.
These pitched battles with soldiers getting intense sometimes leaving civilians maimed, blinded and in severe cases dead. The valley is caught in the midst of the vicious cycle, more and more youths are finding insurgency to be an attractive option because of state's failure to resolve core issue of the Kashmir and engage all stakeholders to resolve Kashmir problem once for all.
The young people who are continuously fighting on streets with security forces would not retreat so easily after over hundred killings and blindings last year. Kashmir's problem is intrinsically political, not military that defense analyst in India has to understand and accordingly deal with the situation without causing injuries to civilians.
The military will of the state was evident last summer where short guns became a dangerous leitmotif that spurred further protests on the streets of Kashmir.
There is a perception among young people that government only talks to them through violence. Whenever there is calm in the state government falls asleep and wakes up only when any incident happens.
By this delaying tactics state has become a kleptocracy. And, it is very difficult to dismantle the Kleptocracy that can make government dealings transparent. It is deep seated into the psyche of cabinet ministers in the present dispensation that they resort to a major theft of public money for private gains, and it is not hidden from the public glare that bribery and corruption led all way up to the Chief Minster and her associates.
Minsters are busy in portfolios more than keeping their promises made at the time of demanding votes from the public.
I am writing this short essay and there are reports about floods in Kashmir, the incessant rain lashed across the valley and the Jehlum River has reached alarming mark. The dredging project under the title 'Comprehensive Flood Management' is a complete fiasco. It has been two complete years since 2014 deluge and there is almost no work done on desilting and dredging in Jehlum.
There is an immediate need for a comprehensive plan for segment dredging needs to be prioritized in order to ensure the 'right combination of marine equipment' at the right location as the present operating dredgers are below capacity and exhibit low efficiency as has been proved by their poor performance over the years of operation. The dredger capacities shall further reduce due to presence of gravel, rocks, boulders in the silt and above all inexperienced operations staff which reduces the output.
According to an expert Ashraf Fazili government should 'make single regulatory body for wetlands, waterways and lakes for effective control and co-ordination. Also, constitute an expert panel of people with a minimum 10 years' experience of dredging and marine projects. First timers as contractors/consultants can be as disastrous as the floods themselves.
A lot can be achieved with the cooperation of government and society if managed by professionally competent members rather than the keypad commandoes of social media.
Sometimes I think the problem of Kashmir can wait for a while but issues of Kashmir cannot wait and needs proper plugging on immediate basis. The people of Kashmir have right to life, they have right to dwell and practice all the things that are entitled to them by the law of nature.
How long people can afford to live in isolation, there are on the other hand plethora of orphanages run on the public donations with least help from the government. The social work department is defunct as there are no policies for the victims of the conflict.
I have seen many people collecting donations by putting loudspeakers on the top of their van with stereo on asking people to donate for orphans. Such a seen is heart wrenching to find fellow Kashmiris suffering.
Despite knowing these facts, state government is not taking concrete steps to provide panacea to the people of Kashmir and take centre in confidence with Pakistan to hold political conversation with all stakeholders. The valley is precariously perched and government must reach out to all the parties of this conflict, sooner than later.