A year of disappointment

The devastation has been compounded by repeated insults – an almost planned scheme of humiliation.
A year of disappointment
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A year has come to pass since we witnessed the worst natural calamity in our contemporary history. The floods that ravaged the State especially Kashmir Valley in September last year, have left haunting memories, crumbled homes and thousands of unemployed youth grappling with misery and economic penury.

Twelve months to the day, there is still no visible sign of a Relief and Rehabilitation Package. The devastation has been compounded by repeated insults – an almost planned scheme of humiliation. We have been billed for rescue and evacuation operations, our assessments trivialized and our suffering bartered for political power.

It would be safe to say that the floods were followed by another calamity, albeit a man-made one – the deliberate discrimination against the people of Jammu and Kashmir by the Narendra Modi Government.   

One doesn't need to reiterate the shocking disparity between the benevolence of the UPA Central Government towards Uttarakhand and the complete lack of empathy towards J&K by the Narendra Modi Government. The chest-thumping, the dramatic speeches and the gestures of magnanimity have stopped at the Banihal tunnel and made a U-turn, along with all the promises made to the people of Kashmir – both by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the State Government in which his party is a constituent – ironically with the same 'father and daughter' who he pledged to expunge from the State's politics. 

The scale and extent of damage caused by the floods that hit J&K in September was much more severe and extensive than that caused in Uttarakhand in 2013. There can be no doubt about this. Our infrastructure (public and private) losses and economic losses were many times more than those suffered by Uttarakhand. Perhaps the most disappointing point of discrimination is that compensation was paid even for dead mules in Uttarakhand – 50,000 for each dead mule. While dead mules were compensated for in Uttarakhand just a month after the tragedy, people continue to wait for adequate, appropriate compensation for loss of human lives in Kashmir. This glaring example perhaps symbolizes the great tragedy of New Delhi's failure in Kashmir. 

The devastation in Kashmir was an opportunity for New Delhi to bridge the perception gap – to disprove the perception of discrimination. Many dubbed this as a golden opportunity for Narendra Modi to get rid of the perception that he is a majoritarian, divisive politician. The 44,000 crores package proposed by the previous State Government was and continues to be easily manageable – contrary to what our God's-gift-to-mankind State Finance Minister might believe and advocate in New Delhi. The Central Government should have approved at least half of the total package within the first month of submission and could have released the pending half a month or two later. The package would have helped us rebuild our bridges, roads, hospitals and what is equally important – compensate flood victims for losses to their homes and businesses. It would have made a huge difference – both in the short term as well as the long term. Sadly, unlike Bihar there isn't an election on the cards in J&K. And even more tragic the fact that our own Mufti Sayeed State Government ridiculed the 44,000 crore package and gave New Delhi and excuse to remain indifferent. 

Remaining ambiguous on the 44,000 crore Flood Relief Package proposal submitted by the State Government, the Central Government has promptly announced a 1,25,000 crore economic package for Bihar. This sadly makes political sense for them. There is an approaching election in Bihar where the BJP is set to fight for its biggest political validation after taking over in New Delhi – in terms of electoral importance. As for Kashmir – the waters have been tested, an armed turmoil contained and a sentiment managed. Delhi couldn't be less worried – at least that is what they seem to be deluded into thinking.  

This previous year has been a year of great disappointment for J&K. The PDP-BJP Coalition Government had promised the effective and time-bound rehabilitation of the flood victims when it came to power. In fact preceding the alliance, PDP's focal point of the argument that 'justified' turning down support from NC and Congress and going with the BJP was that an alliance with the BJP would help in the economic reconstruction of the State. Sadly, to the contrary – the State has been pushed into a phase of economic slowdown, growing unemployment and political uncertainty. The perception of discrimination has been augmented. 

Today, what does a mainstream politician say to a young boy like Burhan from Tral – who has become an urban legend, a hero among the youth – the Robin Hood of this generation? How do you counter his perception of discrimination? With what argument? And was it not a sense of discrimination that fueled the turmoil in 1989? Is the same sense of discrimination driving our young men towards the gun yet again? This is a question for Narendra Modi and Mufti Sayeed to answer – and bear the responsibility for. Meanwhile, the flood victims continue to watch in awe as their pain remains invisible – their cries unheard. 

(Junaid Azim Mattu is the Party Spokesperson of J&K National Conference. Views are personal)


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