Kashmir Devastated by floods

The people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir are facing the brunt of unprecedented floods.  Lakhs of people are marooned on the roofs of their homes, as the river Jhelum and its tributaries have overflown their banks and much of the Kashmir Valley is submerged under water. A week after flooding began, news reports indicated that over two thirds of Srinagar is under water. The number of villages in Kashmir that have been destroyed is not even known. Nor is there any real count of the number of people who have lost their lives. The Jammu region too suffered enormous loss of life and property as a result of the floods.

The Communist Ghadar Party of India extends heartfelt sympathy to the flood devastated people of Jammu & Kashmir.

The Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir publicly declared that there was no government in Kashmir. He claimed helplessness in the face of the great tragedy. This was in response to public criticism that a week after floods devastated the Valley, there were no signs of any activity on behalf of the Government, to rescue lakhs of people marooned because of the floods, let alone to begin the work of relief and rehabilitation.

This terrible situation, wherein the head of a state government which has the responsibility to protect the lives and livelihood of the people, claims helplessness is because of two important factors.

Firstly, the unprecedented floods struck the seat of administration, Srinagar itself. The Secretariat and all the government offices were flooded, telephone and mobile services went dead, electricity had to be shut off. The government officials, far from organising rescue and relief, were preoccupied with the survival of themselves and their near and dear ones.

But even more important is the second reason. Jammu and Kashmir under the jackboots of the Army. The Central government rules over the state through the armed forces. The civilian government is a façade. Its writ has been nonexistent over most parts of Kashmir. The electoral parties in Kashmir —National Conference, PDP, the Congress, BJP, and so on, have no organization amongst the people. They are completely alienated from the people, as reflected in the very low voter participation in successive elections. Whatever organisations the people have, are regularly persecuted by the Central Government and its Armed Forces, their leaders and members tortured, incarcerated, and killed in fake encounters.

The main preoccupation of the central government has been to keep the territory of Kashmir under its colonial rule through a reign of terror. The people of the Kashmir have been treated as enemies. No occupying power makes investment in the well being of the occupied people. This is revealed by the fact that despite it being well known that the Kashmir valley is prone to floods, no measures have been put into place to (1) minimise the damage caused by floods (2) for relief and reconstruction.

Instead of focusing on ensuring immediate rescue of the people trapped in the floods, the Central government and the monopoly media are trying to use the tragedy to advance narrow agendas. It is being made out that the "army is doing a heroic job" of relief and rescue work, and that "terrorists and separatists" are inciting people to oppose relief work and attack the army! This is turning truth on its head and blaming the victims for their plight.

The reality is that nearly two thirds of the Indian Army is stationed in Jammu and Kashmir. There is one army man for every ten Kashmiri resident. This massive force is extremely well trained for carrying out relief and rescue operations in very difficult circumstances, as has been shown in the case of the Uttarakhand floods, the Orissa cyclone and other disasters. However, this Army is stationed in Kashmir as an occupation force. It has carried out the most bestial crimes against the people, including rape of women, and the cold blooded killings of youth.

Such a occupation force cannot change its outlook towards the people overnight. Nor can the people change their outlook towards this Army of occupation.

Much of the propaganda about the "heroic work" of the army in rescue and relief operations in the Valley is just that— propaganda hype. The people who are facing the brunt of the devastating floods can see reality with their own eyes. This is reflected in the reports from the ground that more people are being rescued by houseboats in Srinagar, which are now plying on what used to be roads, than by the armed forces, which had to airlift rescue boats from places as far away as Pune.  The people of Srinagar have depended on each other, and on the social-religious institutions like the Gurudwaras and Masjids, as well as political organizations that are branded by the state as "separatist". Moving stories of heroism have emerged from the valley in these difficult times.

It is the responsibility of the Central Government to immediately rescue all the affected people and ensure their relief and rehabilitation. The colossal scale of devastation means that lakhs of homes will have to be repaired, or rebuilt, and people have to be assisted to resume their shattered lives once again. There is also need to put in place measures to ensure future calamities are either avoided, or their devastating consequences minimized.

None of this can be done, unless, at the very minimum the Army occupation of Kashmir is ended, the Armed Forces are sent back to the barracks, and AFSPA is repealed. All nations and peoples have the right to self determination — the right to decide their own economic orientation, and political system, and their relation with other countries. This right of the Kashmiri people cannot be denied. The working class and people of India, who fought against colonial rule for nearly two hundred years to assert our right to self determination, cannot deny the Kashmiris or other peoples this right. We must fight for the reconstitution of the Indian Union on a voluntary basis, so that all the nations and nationalities and tribal peoples of our country enjoy equal rights, and benefit from such a Union.


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Oct 1-15 2014    Voice of the Party    Popular Movements    




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