Of Kashmir, Floods and Governance: Historical Retrospection
Kashmir has always witnessed a series of dreadful natural calamities like floods, famine and fire. These natural calamities brought devastation in the mass of the rural as well as urban population. It has a baneful influence on the economic condition(s) of Kashmir, and brought about an extensive short-term emigration both among the industrial and agriculturist classes from cities to hilly areas, from sophisticated house to cottages, from constructed walls to stick walls. It played an important role in bringing misery and starvation of the poor people as well. Therefore, what is important and relevant for us is to analyse and compare the present situation with the past. The Past-present linkage in the words of E.H. Carr is ‘an unending dialogue between past and present. He also discerns, the past is to be seen at best through the eyes of the ‘present’. While going through the historical account of Kashmir Rajatarangini of Jonaraja, he gives a detailed account of famines and floods which occurred during of reign of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin locally known as Bud Shah. Jonaraja states that heavy clouds, rains with the rainbows, bubbles appeared on the water, beaten by the rain, destroying the crops, and the cloud which raised the bubbles threatened to destroy all that would grow. The shrines and the houses fell into the water as if to bathe in the river to have their sins removed”. However, the soul of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin was full of kindness towards his subjects filled with anxiety on account of excessive water. He set out on a boat wandering and saw the cultivated fields merged under water.
This sorrow made him weak. Notwithstanding, the Sultan was full of wisdom and kind for his subjects who left no stone unturned in mitigating the sufferings of his people. He constructed floating islands on which crops were sown. He drained the marshlands and took large areas which lay barren under cultivation. He developed the irrigation system by making a number of tanks, canals, and dams. Not only this, Sultan comprehended the recurrence of similar calamity, he built a new city on the bank of river Vitasta on an elevated site called as Jainatilaka. This city according to Srivara was like an ornament to the earth, moonlight rested on the walls of the whitewashed city and as if the goddess of the capital lingered to see the king and his love for the subjects.
While switching over to the present era, we witnessed what untoward occurred from the first week of September 2014. It was a horrific flood, in which the cities and villages, baked and unbaked houses collapsed in the flood, the property worth billions were destroyed, people, witnessed their houses collapsed in front of their eyes. Everything was almost gone and people hardly managed to escape and save their lives. However, 280 precious lives of Kashmiri nation were gone with the wind. Subsequently, the victims of the flood were expecting a brave hearted approach on the part of Centre for rehabilitation but that proved a farce, said by75-year-old Ghulam Mohammad Bhat of Jawahar Nagar, Srinagar. World Bank team that visited Kashmir after the floods put the flood loss at Rs 21,000 crore (Real figure $US6718.583 million). The Kashmir Traders’ and Manufacturers’ Association and the Kashmir Economic Alliance — the largest body of traders, transporters, hoteliers and industrialists — pegged the loss at around Rs 1, 00,000 crores. An amount of Rs 1,200 crore has been sanctioned under PMDP 2015 for providing assistance to beneficiaries of the houses affected by September-2014 floods. Ironically, the Defence Ministry had submitted a bill of Rs 500 crore for relief and rescue operations undertaken by the Army and Air Force during last September’s flood in the state which was a shocking joke for the J&K government in general and flood victims in particular. The Centre diverted 500 crores from the State Disaster Response Fund to the Defence Ministry. Nonetheless, authorities had promised to disburse the amount to the bank accounts of flood victims by the end of July 2015, but the irony of the fact is that the flood victims are still waiting for relief packages. The announcement, according to flood victims, “was another cruel joke as we are running from pillar to post to receive amount announced under PMNRF till date, recalls the victims. Political parties, civil society groups and trade bodies also termed the GoI’s financial package as a “crude joke”. While the head of the metrological department Sonam Lotus is making alarming cries for the recurrence of further calamities of the flood, but the government of Jammu and Kashmir seems to be blind as no precautionary measures of pre-and post-disaster management planning have been taken like that of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin. The mockery of the point is that during the flood crisis all the Delhi-based media and journalists remained embedded with the Indian Armed Forces, including the air force and army and given exclusive access to film their stories from helicopters or rescue boats owned by the military. A Kashmiri journalist, working for New Delhi media, narrated that when Srinagar was deluged, the Indian air force and military planes airlifted journalists to take aerial footage of the inundated areas. “They imposed a condition though,” “That they would airlift me only if I produced a story favouring the army and the air force and covering their relief and rescue efforts. I refused to go. In a statement issued, Hurriyat (G) on 22 April 2017 termed the statement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that ‘army saved lives during Kashmir floods’ as a “brazen lie”. India is persistently contending that we have been acting really in the interests of the subdued Kashmiri people. But the matter of fact is that India only wanted Kashmir, not its people. This is rightly confirmed by Sagarika Ghose, who says that India claims, “Kashmir is ours, but Kashmiri are Jihads”. Kashmiris were just an unsolicited calculation to the portion of landed property they had acquired. They (India) only know how to earn 194 billion from the electricity of Kashmir valley, how to alter the demography of Kashmir. Nobody cares about the people, their families, children, young and old ones, students, whether they live or die does not matter.
My submission in this article is that Kashmiris which once were known for its art, architecture, literature, industry, medicine, laws, philosophy and religion have now become dormant because of the continues foreign oppression and ill-treated governance. It would be hard to name any post-partition Indian ruler equal to the calibre of Zain-ul-Abidin of Kashmir, and it is also safe to say that never was the condition of Kashmir more anarchical than the present fascist regime of RSS sponsored BJP government. Kashmir cannot retain the unforgotten legacy of Sultan Zainul-Abidin until and unless Kashmiris are given the chance to live independently as they were during the rule of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin. Kashmiris will begin afresh their old career of internal development side by side with the other progressive people of the world only once the process of withdrawal of the Indian army took place.
*The author is a Doctoral Fellow at Centre of Advanced Study Department of History, Aligarh Muslim University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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