While travelling on a long flight to Paris for representing India in a major scientific meeting, I started reflecting on Kashmir valley, which I have been visiting every week for 3 days since the abrogation of article 370.
Being a Kashmiri pundit, I remembered the days of great difficulties post 1990, the unfortunate exodus of my community from their hearths in the valley to Jammu and other parts of the country.
The days of stone pelting, pellets and the consequences of those in blinding thousands of our citizens also came to my mind with students losing several years of education and the gloomy atmosphere of our picturesque valley.
I also got reminded that by 2016 the situation had started easing and in 2018 majority of the people of the valley had realised and reconciled to the fact that our future and wellbeing was with accepting India as our home and forgetting the vexed dispute between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, which arose in 1947.
The miseries of the floods of 2014 had been resolved largely and the help rendered by a large number of NGOs from mainland India and also the armed forces all brought us closer to the ruling Central Government and about 16,000 pundits returned back to the valley and felt good being welcomed by their Muslim neighbours. For some time, we felt our bad days were over.
As luck would have it the pendulum again swung to the other end and came 5th August 2019 resulting in the abrogation of the already tattered article 370 and demotion of the state to a Union territory.
This was done by way of making draconian laws of arresting thousands of persons, including 3 former Chief Ministers, their cabinet colleagues, workers of political parties and eminent lawyers.
All modes of communications which included, landline, mobile telephone services, internet, publication of newspapers were snapped.
The resulting chaos, anguish and pain caused to citizens, wherever they were living, in India or abroad is well known all over the world. One wonders, whether these harsh and inhuman measures of humiliating people of Kashmir were necessary?
Slowly things started limping back to normalcy by October 2019, despite some token resistance shown by shopkeepers and public transport operators. It was however very short lived as COVID 19 stepped in and a lock down with a different purpose started.
However, while people and local administration were fighting the pandemic a new set of laws of citizenship for the UT were announced giving opportunity to several categories of people to be eligible for a domicile certificate. This was followed by delimitation process in the UT. The long-term effects of these on the changing the demography are still not clear.
Presently there is an uneasy calm and people don’t express their feelings for fear of being persecuted. How long this truce will last is anybody’s guess. People have no elected representatives of theirs to meet to get local issues sorted out. Elections for the assembly and the return of statehood are nowhere in sight.
Feeling helpless in this uncertain situation in the UT a few likeminded friends along with me decided to do something positive for our population. We started an NGO “Gauri Kaul Foundation” and have embarked on several services during the last 3 years.
Heart Health Clinics: Two state of art clinics, one in Srinagar (Gauri Heart Centre), and another in village Hawal, Rajpora, Distt. Pulwama. (Prasad Joo Khan Heart Centre). Both clinics have all the necessary diagnostic equipment needed to optimize the treatment of high blood pressure, diabetes, established heart disease and executive check-ups. These facilities are running successfully with specialist team of doctors and paramedics.
Telemedicine Units: Three Units - placed in Machil, Kupwara, Jagti Migrant township in Jammu and Hawal, Pulwama. These are of immense help to the residents during the months of severe winter in Kashmir and for elderly people living in the migrant township of Jammu.
Support for people with heart conditions: Free Health Camps in remote parts of various districts of J and K to optimize the treatment of high BP, diabetes, high lipids and heart diseases. We have till date done camps in 6 districts of the UT.
Support for people with old age: The foundation conducts regular free health screening program and treatment for elderly people under “Gauri Old Age Mission (GOAM)”
Advocacy: The foundation engages in advocacy with the state and other agencies to develop policies and programs that promote heart health
Research: In a bid to improve healthcare a research initiative was started by GKF, which led to the formation of a dedicated research unit, Gauri Research Centre (GRC)
All these efforts are doing well and are widely appreciated by the population benefitted by these services and we are constantly improving and upgrading them. There are many activities to come, like:
Clinic on Wheels: Two dedicated spacious ambulances with facilities of carrying out all the diagnostic tests as done in our 2 heart health clinics along with a doctor and paramedics going on various pre-designated days to various remote parts of the valley to examine, investigate and treat patients with heart related issues. These programs should start by the end of current year. Sequentially first in Kashmir, followed by Jammu.
Extension of the Camps to 14 more districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
Educational Activities: World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on 15th June and a Clinical research Workshop In collaboration with Indian Society of Clinical Research (ISCR), SKIMS and GMC Srinagar on 8th July 2023.
Having seen several negative developments in our homeland J&K after 1990’s instead of feeling helpless me and my friends got positive vibes which resulted in the formation of an NGO “Gauri Kaul Foundation”. The foundation till date has made 2 heart clinics, 3 telemedicine units, conducted several free health camps, health services for the elderly, advocacy to develop health care programs and a research centre. Our future programs this year are to launching the “Clinic on wheels”-a mobile heart centre and educational activities on elderly abuse and Clinical research workshop in Srinagar.
Acknowledgements: We gratefully acknowledge the support provided by several organizations which include, Indian Oil Corporation (IOL), Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Astra Zeneca, INTAS Pharmaceuticals, ERIS life sciences and NOVONORDISK.
Prof Upendra Kaul, Founder Director Gauri Kaul foundation
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.