#KashmiriLivesMatter, India

Published: April 17, 2015
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A man in Srinagar clings to a rope to avoid being swept away by the torrent. PHOTO: REUTERS

A man in Srinagar clings to a rope to avoid being swept away by the torrent. PHOTO: REUTERS A Kashmiri man rows a makeshift raft carrying a woman and a child. PHOTO: REUTERS

Recent heavy showers led to a flood in River Jhelum because of which Indian-occupied Kashmir has come under the line of fire again, with torrents wreaking havoc throughout the valley.

Last year, Kashmir witnessed a similar tragedy – 300 lives were lost, $16 billion worth of infrastructure was destroyed and six million Kashmiris were affected on the whole. It is too early to decide if these floods are worse than their predecessors, but if the people stuck in these areas are not evacuated in time, things might get out of control.

During the floods that took place last year, many Kashmiris were of the view that had the Indian army evacuated them in time, things would have been much better. It is also alleged, by many locals, that the Indian military focused more on Hindu-majority areas and did not help the Muslim Kashmiris as vehemently as was required. And this time too, their fears remain the same. The Kashmir Valley is occupied by more than 750,000 Indian military personnel and the Indian army – according to locals – is focused on saving only these officers, along with Indian settlers and foreign tourists, and is completely refusing to help the local Muslim Kashmiris.

Some believe this is India’s way of punishing Kashmiris for going against them and resisting an Indian occupation in the area. Certain factions in Kashmir are also accusing Indians of abandoning Muslim-majority areas and confining their search operations to Hindu-majority areas only – just like last year. Such acts may lead to religious polarisation, something that hasn’t been seen in the Kashmir Valley up till now. Polarising Kashmiri Muslims and Hindus appears to be the new strategy adopted by India’s right wing government.

The reasons for frequent flooding in Indian-occupied Kashmir can be attributed to poor governance and shabby infrastructure. The Indian army occupied Kashmir nearly seven decades ago, and yet, it has failed miserably in improving the living conditions of the common Kashmiri man. The reason cited for this is because Kashmiris refuse to accept Indian occupation. But it makes me wonder if there are other designs in place behind Kashmir’s miserable infrastructure and life style.

In 2010, the Indian-appointed chief minister of Kashmir ignored the report by the Floods Control Department, which predicted that Kashmir will be hit by severe floods over the next five years. The reasons stated were unplanned constructions, over-flooded channels, river banks and encroachments. The report warned of the possibility that Srinagar could be submerged in flood water due to the overflow of nearly 150,000 cusecs of water from Jhelum.

However, the Indian-appointed official in the administration conveniently ignored the warning, even though there was no proper mechanism in place to save human life or property. Subsequently, when Indian-occupied Kashmir witnessed one of the worst floods last year, the chief minister said his administration was caught off-guard.

The pro-Indian regime in Kashmir seems to be least bothered by the threats looming over the valley and plans on doing nothing to lift Kashmiris out of their miserable condition. The local Indian administration proposed a plan worth INR 22 billion to improve the infrastructure in order to reduce the threat of floods. This plan requested the then Indian government, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to lend INR 5 billion. However, even after five years, this plan has not been implemented. Consequently the threat of floods still loom over Kashmir.

The scenic valley is turning into the valley of death. The only reason for this seems to be India’s reluctance to save Kashmiri lives, and to use the threat of floods as a bargaining chip in Kashmir’s demand to end the Indian occupation in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions.

When will India start valuing Kashmiri lives and not use them like pawns in a chess game with Pakistan? #KashmiriLivesMatter

Mariah Atiq

Mariah Atiq

She is a HR activist, and an international lobbyist at Youth Forum for Kashmir. She has addressed UN Human Rights Council twice on Kashmir. She has researched extensively on EU-Pak strategic relations as well. She tweets as @MariahAtiq (twitter.com/MariahAtiq)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.