Intro : Insinuating forces for using Jammu and Kashmir floods for a “PR exercise’ is quite shameful and denigrating..
Every incident in Kashmir, big or small, has the potential of getting politicised; so it was expected that political games will be played out on the flood tragedy also. That they would begin so early even as the relief process is underway came as a surprise. This, unfortunately, indicates the slavish compulsion of a particular segment in the State that is left with no option but to obey foreign diktats regardless of their indecent and inhumane nature.
Certain voices are castigating the media with a ridiculous insinuation of having carried out a “PR exercise” in favour of the army. Such misinformation and rumour mongering deserves the strongest censure.
It has been universally acknowledged that the Indian armed forces put in a herculean effort to control and contain the critical situation created by the floods. Is this the first time that the armed forces have put in an effort of this nature? The answer is – No!! The armed forces have been forthcoming in all instances of disaster that the nation has faced since independence. Is the relief effort a vested interest to “Win the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir” as is being insinuated? The answer again is – No!! The assistance was a spontaneous, natural reaction to save fellow citizens, human beings and animals from an adverse situation. In the past the armed forces have had ample opportunity to “win hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir” when they assisted during the earthquake of 2005; the cloud burst in Leh in 2010 and the numerous occasion when the Valley has been cut off due to heavy snowfall, landslides etc?
Assistance in times of natural calamities is not extended by the armed force for the sake of photo opportunities. The army has the wherewithal and the experience to meet such emergencies and it does so as a part of its responsibility towards the nation.
Disaster management is not the sole prerogative of the armed forces and they do not deem it to be so. It is a collective national effort in which the people play a dominant role. In every instance of disaster civilians in the vicinity do come out in large numbers to assist as was the case in Kashmir also. This apart, a lot many government agencies get involved in the process. In Kashmir, particularly, the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) played a crucial role as did the paramilitary forces and the JK Police. The state government did what it could do, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah personally put in an appreciable effort.
It is a fact that the armed forces take centre stage in the media coverage of a disaster. This is not because of a “PR effort” as is being insinuated. The army is normally responsible for coordinating the rescue and relief operation. Because the information is available with the armed forces, it is there that the media congregates. To insinuate media of using the tragedy for a PR exercise is denigrating.
Civilian involvement in Kashmir is already gaining momentum. Take the instance of the “Kar Seva” from Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar that has been running a Langar (Free Kitchen) in Kashmir since many days-the noble initiative has been covered by the media as have been stories of individual courage. In fact, now that the initial impact is over and the situation is slowly getting under control, the armed forces have silently gone into the background and other civilian and government agencies have taken the front seat. This is something that the vested interests in Kashmir have neither noticed nor written about.
There is also talk about media’s silence over apathy and lack of response of the state government; but this is not the time to raise such issues. This is a matter of national concern and is bound to be addressed in due time. There is no point in jumping the gun.
Natural disasters are not circumstances where anybody is looking for personal glory, least of all the armed forces. These are times when each and every person is expected to put in whatever effort he/she can. Those who make derogatory and negative statements under such circumstances are looked upon with considerable abhorrence; as is happening in the Kashmir valley. Once the process of rehabilitation starts more ammunition will come in the hands of the separatist and divisive elements to attack the government. It is now up to the Omar Abdullah government to rise and be counted.
Jaibans Singh(The writer is Editor of www. defenceinfo.com)