Ahmad came to Kashmir only a few days back to spend time with his family. Studying in world’s most prestigious university, Standford USA, Ahmad is heartbroken. As I talk to him he explains about flood situations and how to handle them. He applauds the role of army, NDRF and local people and NGO’s. He is baffled by the statement of chief minister that “100 year events can’t be predicted” and he sites examples where structures are designed for 100 years or even more with “only 2% probability of exceedance”. As I point out to him that warnings were issued from local Masjid’s he again rebuts. Ahmad explains about international standards about how people need to be motivated and warnings need to be given early. He says that events like random Masjid announcements don’t work and people must be sensitized properly and convinced about the consequences. He tells me that the first step that could have averted the disaster was that CM could have passed on the information to flood department who could have checked the banks of Jehlum for cuts and breeches. This could have prevented significant damage.
Like Ahmad all people in Kashmir are distressed. Some are cursing their fate whereas others are blaming the administration. But among all this is great hope. Not only the people living in Kashmir but Kashmiri’s across the globe have come up for help in these troubled times. Working professionals, students, businessmen of Kashmiri origin have got together all across the globe and are trying their best to help the people of Kashmir. Many non Kashmiri’s are also working day and night for unknown people back home. Two such heros are Adil and Mubarakh. Adil who hails from Kulgam was one of the first persons to organize a coordinated effort to save his people back home. On hearing about massive floods on 7th September, Adil contacted his friends in Kashmir on aircel network, which was the only service operational in the valley. He simultaneously organized a massive facebook and twitter campaign seeking whereabouts of people who were trapped. “I compiled a list of affected people and contacted National disaster management force (NDRF) Punjab who directed me to contact Delhi office. On the first day itself I was able to give information of about 30 families to NDRF and Army about the location of people”. I hear Adil & Mubarak being inundated by calls as I talk with them. Adil adds that on second day they received some 3000 calls and made sheets mentioning the complete address of people trapped and forwarded them to NDRF and Army. Adil tells me that his own family is untraceable and he doesn’t know about them but that doesn’t stop him from working with great dedication. He constantly updated his facebook page and gave people hope when there was none. Adil says that now they are working for relief operations. “We have collected 450 blankets, 150 life jackets and medicines as well which we are sending to Kashmir”, Adil adds. Adil says that he will do whatever it takes to help his people back home under these trying circumstances.
Not only Adil but many other Kashmiri’s are also actively involved in rescue and relief mission. “Kashmiri volunteers in Delhi” is one such group. Its core member Arif Ayaz, a noted Kashmiri writer tells me that, “we sent tents, life jackets, medicines, baby-food, chlorine tablets and about 5000 Liters of water”. Arif adds that they have sent boats as well and are working closely with local people on ground who update them about essentials which are of utmost importance. Other people like Faheem Shah of Lex Alliance is working particularly for people who are now in camps. He has already purchased 250 blankets, 500 Dal packs and milk and medicines which he shall be dispatching to Kashmir tomorrow.
Not only in India but Kashmiris across the globe have stepped up to help. Sana Sulatan along with many expatriate Kashmiri’s has been instrumental in raising money in London. Sana tells me that, “We have raised some 10K Pounds and hope to raise more”. She is working in close coordination with local Kashmiri’s associated with relief work in Banglore and Delhi. They are themselves travelling to India on 10 September to better utilize their funds.
Among this great commotion the stories of compassion and selflessness are replete. Gagan Kohli, a local Sikh boy living in Delhi has been compiling the list of people stranded and sending them to Army.
Among all this if there is one thing that repeats itself, it is that Kashmiri’s have not forgotten their long tradition of selfless love and compassion for everyone. In common parlance, it’s called Kashmiriyat.
@Iqbal ..11Sep 2014