The state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and the Kashmir Valley in particular have gone through a deluge of floods recently. The entire nation has empathised with the people in their hour of need, and the he feeling has translated into a massive effort to provide assistance to the afflicted people. From non-government organisations, charitable organisations to civil society groups etc, all have actively participated in the rehabilitation process. Almost all political parties have volunteers in the Valley to render whatever help is feasible. Media, on the other hand is covering all aspects to keep the nation informed by giving impetus to the mobilisation of resources.
Recently, a charity show, Umeed-e-Kashmir, was organised to raise funds for the flood victims; film stars, big and small, came out in large numbers to be a part of the noble cause.
My question is, has Kashmir ever responded with such zeal and passion towards areas of the nation that have witnessed affliction due to natural disasters? It does not seem so! In 2013 Uttrakhand faced large scale destruction due to floods; one has not come across an instance when a Kashmir based organisation came forward to assist the afflicted people. One has also not heard of any such initiative from Kashmir in earlier disasters and calamities.
Many Kashmir based non-government organisations, charity institutions and civil society groups have the capacity to contribute during natural disasters. Political entities like the Hurriyat Conference can mobilise a lot of resources if they want to. The government of J&K can also support other states in the same way they are getting helped.
This columnist may stand corrected if a similar humanitarian effort from Kashmir has been reported by the media. If not, is this not a reflection of an insensitive society or of one that does not relate to its own fellow citizens?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi preferred to spend the auspicious day of Deepavali with the people of Kashmir and the brave soldiers of the country who are serving in treacherous frontiers away from their families. These soldiers guard first the state of J&K and then the rest of India. Prime Minsiter’s visit to Kashmir was the second since calamity struck the region. He visited the first time in early September, within a few days of the deluge taking place. He declared the situation a national disaster and gave immediate relief of Rs 1,000 crore from the centre. In his second visit, he has promised an additional Rs 745 crore.
The concern that PM Modi is showing for Kashmir and the generous relief packages that he is giving is worthy of the highest approbation. It reflects the inherent sensitivity and humanity of the Indian state. Unfortunately, there is no “feel good” vibration emanating from Kashmir with regard to his visit. The Kashmir media has termed it as politically motivated visit. Once again the negative brand of politics that signifies Kashmir is in the forefront.
Instead of being measured in terms of its humane element, the visit of the Prime Minsiter has been spoken of in terms of the additional rehabilitation package of Rs 745 crore. Media went overboard in comparing it with the Rs 44,000 crore demanded by the state government.
Is the demand for a massive package of Rs 44,000 crore by the state government justified by any logical or economic parameter? One has never heard of such a massive demand in the multitude of natural disasters that have taken place across India since independence. If Kashmir is so rich that it can lose such a huge amount in a calamity restricted to a small portion of the state then why is there a constant demand for central assistance?
One can see “politics of aid” developing. What should be of prime importance at this stage is to overcome the tragedy with utmost honesty of purpose. The people of J&K should courageously get down to rebuilding their lives themselves, they should look at the assistance as a force adding to their individual efforts. Priority should be in ensuring that the last penny reaches the concerned person in a timely manner. And the media should assist by avoiding sensationalism and ensuring a correct, positive coverage. And, above all, what needs to be avoided at all costs is a sullen, cynical approach where more energy is wasted on the blame game rather than work on ground.
(The writer is editor of www.defenceinfo.com)