Youth Heroes in Kashmir Flood

by Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General, Kashmiri Awareness

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Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai

This flood was the first in history, in the living memory of Kashmir.  More than 450 people are dead, and more than $1bn in destruction has been estimated.  The actual magnitude of the total destruction, the number of dead and the people who are missing may not be known for some time.

Kashmir Valley was cut off from the rest of the world for days.  Thousands of villages have been submerged, including the capitol city of Srinagar. Hundreds of thousands of people particularly in the rural areas still remain trapped without any outside help or rescue and relief. There has been a total breakdown in communication with no telephone contact of the people with their loved ones  Boats were not available.  People had to stand on their rooftops waiting for someone to rescue them.

The state government has collapsed all together.  They seem to have no control over the situation. Although the flood control department in Kashmir had predicted in 2010 that such a disaster was possible and they had reported it to the government of India, no action was taken.  Why not?  That’s the question which everyone is asking.  Was it because of the deforestation, the centuries old melting of glaciers, or due to the recklessness of the trekkers (tourists)?  These are the questions that need to be answered.

But the millions of affected people cannot wait until those answers are given.  The struggle of millions of Kashmiris is the struggle of life and death.  They are at the mercy of the outside world who always have helped and have proved able to assist those who are in real danger and who need their immediate attention.

Omar's photo

Photo by Omar Javaid Bazaz, one of the brave volunteers who made efforts to bring help and rescue stranded people.

We know that the issue is not political but a humanitarian and moral issue that should shake the conscience of humanity.  It is worth noting as reported by the media that immediate rescue missions in the Valley were taken by Kashmiri youth who rescued thousands, not only Kashmiri families who were stranded but even the migrant Indian Hindu laborers.  They even provided them with food and shelter.

This selflessness and the beauty of Kashmiri youth bravery needs to be appreciated.  In the United States, the American youth of Kashmiri heritage have taken on the herculean task to initiate relief and disaster activity as well.  They are doing it irrespective of their ideological preferences or cultural affiliations or regional backgrounds.  They do have limited resources, but their eagerness to work has proved to be exemplary.  They are a few hundred dedicated group of volunteers from all over the world.  Their dedication and selflessness need to be highlighted.  They have a clear objective.  They are trying to establish relief camps and shelter, provide life saving medicines, clean water, food and clothes to the needy.

The atrociousness of the tragic situation should bring more cooperation and coordination to effectively help the needy with dignity and honor. There are some international agencies which are already operational in Kashmir like Save the Children, Action Aid, ICRC, and Handicap International.  The enormity of the situation demands that the government of India seek assistance from other friendly countries including the United Nations. It will take years to rehabilitate millions of affected people that will need cooperation and coordination with foreign governments, international disaster agencies, and local civic society.  The American Red Cross and USAID should get involved in the disaster relief activities. The passivity and inaction in this tragedy is deplorable and not an option.  This is not a time for the blame game but time to take responsibility and show humanness by taking immediate action in rescue and relief operations.  This needs the coordinated efforts by allowing the foreign and disaster agencies to work without any hindrance in Kashmir and to take all possible measures, including rescue missions, relief and rehabilitation.

We are dismayed to know that the government of India has not accepted the relief assistance offered by the United Nations.  The spokesperson of the United Nations Secretary General said “The UN system stands ready to help governments in India and Pakistan in their efforts to provide relief and assistance to the hundreds impacted by the severe floods in Kashmir, a spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday.”

He, however, added that he is not aware whether the UN agencies in India have received any official request from the government for help in relief and rescue operations.

I agree with Anuradha Jamwal Bhasin when she said, “This is time to sink ideologies and prejudices and not allow them to prevail over humanity.”

Reuters reported Sept 13, 2014, “Residents stranded for days by the floodwaters said that the army has selectively evacuated tourists and people according to a preset priority list, leaving locals to be rescued later by volunteers.”

This is not going to help the helpless people of Kashmir who are in immediate need of assistance by the government of India.  Dr. Rita Pal, a medical journalist from England, has given her wisdom by saying, “it is therefore time to put people before religion and lives before politics.” Let us hope that message gets through.

Why things are getting worse, not better

So many Democrats seem to believe that, despite their own failures in office, we should keep electing them because electing a Republican would be worse. And there’s every chance in the world that things could be worse. Certainly not better. Therefore it is regarded as extremely harmful to criticize Democrats because this provides fuel for the Republicans, and gives them greater odds of winning in the next election. It is of course the lesser of two evils philosophy.

What is important for them to realize is that the steady progression our country has taken toward loss of rights and a shift toward the right is their refusal to recognize standards, ethical standards, and Constitutional law that must be upheld, regardless of who is in office. The outright sale of this country to corporate thieves and bankers has occurred for no other reason than that Democrats have permitted it.

We can expect such a drift from Republicans. We can expect that money will rule when they are in office. We can expect that the Democrats will cry foul when Republicans are responsible for ignoring democratic principles and the rule of law. But when Republicans are in power, can they do anything about it?

The only restraint that will ever occur is the party that is supposed to stand up for the little guy and finally pushes back against this trend. The only change that will occur is when Democrats indict Democrats, because that’s the only chance they will ever get to do anything about it.

What we get, however, is shut up and drive. Don’t say anything when Democrats do it. And so corruption ultimately breeds more corruption when the Democrats have their hands in the cookie jar as well. The problems become so engrained, so embedded in the system, that even when Republicans do wrong, it’s so passe that hardly anyone notices except in cases where the offense is so egregious and aggravated that people begin clamoring for change. What can they say when the Republicans do it? Nothing, because they fear being exposed and because the Republicans have more political clout than they do.

When Democrats begin to realize that values and ethics and the protections we have been given in the Constitution are more important than winning an election, only then will things get better. When Democrats hold their own accountable, and are persistent in upholding standards that we all believe in, only then will we see an improvement in the political landscape.The enormous amount of blood that has been spilled so that we can have human rights, civil rights and freedom might as well have been dog’s piss for all these people who see nothing more important than holding the reins of power.

In Matt. 7:5 Jesus said, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Whether you are a Christian or not (and I am not), there’s some wisdom in that statement that Democrats ought to give some attention to.