Flood ‘14: Indian administered Kashmir suffers from floods and official neglect

Published: September 22, 2014
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Tales of people abandoned, families separated, children left to fend for themselves.

Tales of people abandoned, families separated, children left to fend for themselves.

SRINAGAR: 

A fortnight after the water struck south and central Kashmir, the heart of Srinagar, Lal Chowk, is still inundated. Men and women, some of them weeping, wade through the water and brush past the floating bodies of animals as they try to find missing family members and friends.

Uptown, at Sanat Nagar, a leading industrialist joined the queue for handouts of food at a relief camp. On September 7, the former director of India’s public broadcaster Doordarshan Farooq Nazki stood on the roof of his house in Shivpora, which borders the Indian Army’s 15th Corps Headquarters, and wailed for help. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was undertaking an aerial tour of the area at the time and before the communication system across Kashmir was blacked out, Nazki sent out a desperate missive: Modi ji, mujhay aur meri family ko bachaiye.”

A man in Srinagar clings to a rope to avoid being swept away by the torrent. PHOTO: REUTERS

At the same time, a senior DIG rank police official and his guards were gesturing frantically from the ground, begging for an airlift as helicopters circled above them. A woman at a relief camp wailed as her two-year-old child had been left behind while she was being rescued. It was an apocalypse. The disaster, which has affected nearly five million people, has proved a great social leveler.

According to initial estimates, the floods have wreaked havoc worth at least one trillion rupees in Kashmir. Government officials say 2,600 villages have been affected – 1,700 in Kashmir and the remainder in Jammu. Over 390 villages are fully submerged. A member of the Kashmir Center for Social and Development Studies Shakeel Qalander said the damage to the housing sector alone is to the tune of Rs300 billion. And all traces of agriculture in the region’s bread basket – South Kashmir – have been damaged. More than a century ago, British officer Sir Walter Lawrence accused the administration of Maharaja Pratap Singh of blissfully sleeping while a deluge reached Srinagar in 1893. Exactly 121 years later, the government of Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah was not only caught off guard by the disaster but had woefully and inefficiently underestimated the problem. On September 1, just two days before the rains, the government was preparing a note for the cabinet to declare much of Kashmir ‘drought affected’.

A Kashmiri man rows a makeshift raft carrying a woman and a child. PHOTO: REUTERS

A former bureaucrat and close confidante of the Abdullah family, BR Singh, borrowed from the words of Oliver Cromwell in an editorial in Greater Kashmir, saying to Omar: You have sat too long for any good you have doing lately….depart I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.

The waters were neither a cloud burst nor a flash flood. The River Jhelum started rising slowly and steadily due to the rains that lashed Kashmir from September 1 onwards. On September 5 and 6, South Kashmir was inundated. The government took no precautions until the waters came to central Kashmir and Srinagar city on September 7. The flood gates remained unmanned. There was no mobilisation to patrol the bunds or have sandbags ready. And the fact is that over the past 60-plus years, most of the canals and flood channels in the city have been blocked in the name of development. The city known as the Venice of the East is now a city of concrete and filth.

Painfully, attempts were being made to dehumanise Kashmiris in the name of exclusivist nationalism. Sadistic pleasure was drawn from the colossal damage. No doubt that Indian defence forces rescued people at many places, but this was portrayed as a ‘favour’.  India’s national TV channels debated over whether the army’s efforts would generate sympathy for the army!

A girl in Indian administered Kashmir is rescued. PHOTO: REUTERS

Some reported that Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yasin Malik and pro-freedom leader Syed Ali Geelani were rescued by the Army. But both were sitting in their homes at the time. Even if they had been rescued, is it not the duty of the Army to save even its enemies in the hour of disaster as per the Geneva Convention? By behaving in this way, the Indian government lost a chance to show a softer side of itself to the Kashmiri people, who so far have seen the Indian tri-colour fluttering only on Army bunkers or atop interrogation centres.

There was no mention in the mainstream media of thousands of local volunteers who, without any training, rescued thousands with whatever material they had – plastic tanks, wooden rafts etc. A young lawyer Sajjad Mohiuddin, for instance, took a flight from Delhi to Srinagar and purchased a boat for Rs2.5 lakh with his savings. While the authorities said they could not reach Lal Chowk due to the strong water currents, this young man and journalist Shujaat Bukhari rescued 500 people over three days. Bengali and Bihari labourers, tourists from Gujrat, Delhi, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, and a Hindu priest heading a group of pilgrims from North India, stranded for seven days without food or water, were rescued by these two men.

The environment cannot be the sole concern of a few NGOs. The reality is that almost all the Indus line glaciers, sources of water to Kashmir and Pakistan’s rivers, are melting and receding at an alarming rate. Barring certain water bodies that are spring-fed, most of the streams of the Indus water system are glacier-fed. Since early melting of these glaciers triggers massive discharge in the rivers, the water bodies lack the adequate quantity once agricultural activity begins.

Barely 20 years ago, the snow line to the Kashmir valley’s east was just near to Pahalgam and Sonmarg (3,200 metres). Currently, the line has receded to the Shiashnag area which is at an altitude of 5,000 metres. The same is true of the Pirpanjal mountain range in the west where the snow line was above Kongwatan and Zaznar (3,000-3,500 metres). Most of the glaciers from Harmuk to Drungdrung, including Thajiwas, Kolahoi, Machoie, Kangrez and Shafat, have significantly receded (4,000-5,000 metres) over the last 50 years.

Fifty years ago, the Chenab Basin used to have about 8,000 sq km under glaciers, permanent and ephemeral snow cover, as compared to the present 4,100 sq km. In the Pirpanjal range, there is hardly any glacier remaining at the top of this mountain range.

While Srinagar was flooding, Prime Minister Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif made offers of assistance to each other. One hopes this bonhomie runs deep in order to evolve a sustainable cooperative mechanism beyond the Indus Water Treaty to govern and protect resources, across the Line of Control.

The writer is the Chief of Bureau in New Delhi of DNA, a leading English language publication of Mumbai. He is originally from Kashmir.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2014.

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Reader Comments (39)

  • Sheikh Arif
    Sep 22, 2014 - 9:53AM

    Nothing else could have been expected from occupying force. The silver lining is that now not a single Kashmiri is under any illusion about who is his true well-wisher. While real ganuine grassroot democracy is taking birth in Pakistan, india is coming to the logical conclusion of the opression of brute majority. Considering the example set by UK and the fact that india has a PM with proven genocidal record, I think this is the perfect time to revive the campaign for international coalition against kashmir oppression and rekindle the demand for plebicite. Not a single vote will go to india if plebicite is conducted today. I think Bilawal Bhutto is on to something after all.

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  • Neo
    Sep 22, 2014 - 9:58AM

    I dont understand what this article is for ?
    Remove the word indian from article with pakistan, situation will be thousands time worst .
    No single word is written about 3rd class separatist leaders whereabout and effort during this flood.

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  • shumayel
    Sep 22, 2014 - 10:35AM

    Why indian administered kashmir? has india stopped using POK? has india carried out a referendum in kashmir ? has india vacated kashmir?
    It is Indian OCCUPIED kashmir and ET would do its due to call it that way.

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  • Hyder Ali
    Sep 22, 2014 - 10:41AM

    What the writer said is only partially true. My family was rescued by army after 3 days. You can say they are not organised and I’ll prepared for the flood of this magnitude. Also this has nothing to do with army or Indian government against Kashmiri people because if it was true then why did Jammu also face same issues. Even many units of Indian army stationed in Kashmir were trapped in the floods for more than a week.

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  • Sanjeev
    Sep 22, 2014 - 11:01AM

    @Sheikh Arif:
    Just check how many Indian muslims want to migrate to Pakistan to enjoy the fruits of your genuine real grass root democracy. It will open your eyes as to how the world including Indian muslims view Pakistan – a failed state. If even Muslims do not want to migrate to Pakistan which was created as their home land and wish to live in India with all its faults, as third rate citizens, it is a sad commentary on Pakistan as a nation and society.

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  • jay`980
    Sep 22, 2014 - 11:20AM

    @shumayel: occupied or not Kashmir will stay Indian… Pakistan can worry about Baluch Land// seems like nothing was learned in 1971

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  • Gurion
    Sep 22, 2014 - 11:25AM

    @Sheikh Arif:

    While real ganuine grassroot democracy
    is taking birth in Pakistan, india is
    coming to the logical conclusion of
    the opression of brute majority

    Sir, what have you been smoking?!

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  • Indian
    Sep 22, 2014 - 11:29AM

    @Sheikh Arif: Even the Kashmiri separatist Mr. Gilani was rescued by Indian Army. Stop spreading rumors and hatred.

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  • Supriya ARCOT
    Sep 22, 2014 - 11:47AM

    Please stop spreading hate . The magnitude of this calamity is too huge to get organised . The Army did its best .

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  • Farhan
    Sep 22, 2014 - 11:51AM

    @Sanjeev: the point of this piece, which is from an indian journal, is to show the inadequacies of disaster management in Kashmir by India. Your comment shows that instead of address that, you’re simply pointing to a situation which may or may not be worse.

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  • chandran
    Sep 22, 2014 - 12:06PM

    india is coming to the logical conclusion of the opression of brute majority. Considering the example set by UK

    Where the country UK comes here I think lot of overseas Pakistanis (mirpur walas)
    financing this Kashmir separatist. Some people like Lord ahmed Lord Barrister sultan
    are prime among them. Of course we Indians know about these things.

    .

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  • rohit950723
    Sep 22, 2014 - 12:14PM

    Part of Kashmir is with China also. Why pakistanis are always silent on it…

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  • Humor.as.Armor
    Sep 22, 2014 - 12:16PM

    @Gurion:Elementary , my dear Watson. From his own admission of “grassroots ” democracy , it must be grass !

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  • joy
    Sep 22, 2014 - 12:24PM

    “Some reported that Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yasin Malik and pro-freedom leader Syed Ali Geelani were rescued by the Army”
    Who reported this? Come on Mr Jilani, at least tell the truth.You were on Rajya Sabha TV sudio in Delhi speaking something entirely different when floods were causing havoc.
    Have you a conscience?

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  • Haider
    Sep 22, 2014 - 12:26PM

    @jay`980
    I think you should go to Baluchistan to see real picture.Balochis want to be part of Pakistan even Independence Day celebrations were done in Ziarat..
    There are only few terrorits with backing of India and Afghanistan..
    Kashmir a much much bigger issue and a bilateral issue
    @Sanjeev
    There are billions of muslims in the world.Muslims in India are Indians while Muslim in Pakistan are Pakistanis.But many Muslims in India have much respect for Pakistan

    Hazard in Kashmir (Indian Occupied) are bcz of negligence by Indian Govt and in Punjab (Pakistan) by Pak govt..Admit It.Recommend

  • Ganesh
    Sep 22, 2014 - 12:28PM

    The writer sits in Delhi and writes on web journal.And no one harasses him.It’s enough to tell about India’s democracy and freedom to even muslims hating India!!

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  • Gurion
    Sep 22, 2014 - 12:30PM

    @Humor.as.Armor:

    @Gurion:Elementary , my dear Watson.
    From his own admission of “grassroots
    ” democracy , it must be grass !

    But as per Bhutto, all the grass was consumed in order to make the nukes!

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  • Sanjeev
    Sep 22, 2014 - 12:57PM

    @Farhan:
    My reply was to the comment passed by Shaikh Arif. Considering the magnitude of the disaster, Indian army has done a commendable job. But as expected some commentators want to point out deficiencies standing on the bank and hoping that this will make Kashmiris opt to join Pakistan – as if Pakistan fared any better. So my comment is just to bring them to their senses.

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  • BlackJack
    Sep 22, 2014 - 1:01PM

    Isn’t it amazing that I am yet to see an article of this magnitude and detail on the floods in Pakistan where more people have died.Recommend

  • Mazo
    Sep 22, 2014 - 3:10PM

    @Sheikh Arif:
    LOL A failed state that can only export terrorists and death is criticizing relief efforts of a democratic state ? Not even Pakistani want to be part of Pakistan – let alone Kashmiris! The international community can such balls – they can’t do anything in Jammu and Kashmir without India’s say-so. And India does not need any aid as it can manage easily. Less than 300 people have been confirmed dead in these recent floods and that is a drop in the bucket. The Kashmiris pathetic whining and moaning for everything is nothng unusual – unfortunately for everybody the Kashmiris can only throw stones like trained chimps, not do a better job helping put their homes back together again and expect to be coddled and spoon fed relief!

    Over 250,000 Kashmiris were evacuated in 7 days since the floods. Today 90% of all relief camps that are run – use supplies offered by the Indian state – not by the sepratists.

    In fact the Kashmiri separatists are busy throwing people off rescue boats and stealing food and looting like common criminals.

    There is no line in the Geneva convention that says the Indian Army has to provide aid to Kashmiri separatists. Geneva Conventions apply to wars – there is no war in Kashmir. And moreover the Jammu and Kashmir state administration is responsible for relief and rescue – not the Indian Army.

    Pakistan can’t even rescue its own people (more people died in Pakistan than in ALL of Jammu and Kashmir!) from the floods but wants to give sermons to India and Indian rescue efforts ? Pakistani wish they were in Kashmir – because then at least they would get rescued – like the Pakistani women who were rescued by the Indian Army!!

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  • ajeet
    Sep 22, 2014 - 3:15PM

    I salute the Pakistani spirit. Pakistanis are more worried about neighbours burnt down room even when their whole house has burned down.

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  • Haider
    Sep 22, 2014 - 4:19PM

    @Mazo
    Pak Army rescued civilians in lakhs from Punjab to Sindh.Pakistan Army helped else disaster would have been much much more.Salute Pak army and armies of both countries.Disaster in Pak are BCz of negligence of corrupt politicians and every one in Pakistan is accepting it.you would have heard a line famous in Pak “GO Nawaz Go”.Destructions in Punjab (Pak)and Kashmir (Indian Part ) were bcz of negligence and lack of responsibility by governments of respective countriesRecommend

  • Moiz Omar
    Sep 22, 2014 - 4:23PM

    Don’t call it “Indian administered Kashmir.” It is “Indian occupied Kashmir.”Recommend

  • Sanjeev
    Sep 22, 2014 - 7:27PM

    @Haider: In case of India, do not blame the central government. They had given funds to the state government for flood control constructions. But they spent this money on equipping police forces for riot control gears etc. so that they could face threats. Ultimately people paid the price for their bad karma ! Whatever could have been spent for their welfare had to be spent to keep them in their place. So people are responsible for their irresponsible social behaviour.

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  • Syed Jalal Kashmiri
    Sep 22, 2014 - 10:19PM

    Anytime a Kashmiri gives his side of what is happening to him, Indian Hindu extremists abuse and malign Kashmiris. Fact is Kashmiris do not think of themselves as Indians, and Indians don’t see us as Indians either. This is why the Indian media uses any disaster to mock and ridicule Kashmiris, Pakistanis, and Indian Muslims.

    These haters do nothing but unify Kashmiris and Pakistanis. We are not blind, we see everything you say about us. Kashmiris always honor and respect the genuine love we get from Pakistan and our fellow Muslims globally.

    Next time someone tells Kashmiris to leave Kashmir, how about you Indians stay on your own land and leave Kashmir to Kashmiris. We are sick of your hypocrisy and double standards.

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  • truthbetold
    Sep 23, 2014 - 12:09AM

    @Syed Jalal Kashmiri:

    “Next time someone tells Kashmiris to leave Kashmir, how about you Indians stay on your own land and leave Kashmir to Kashmiris. We are sick of your hypocrisy and double standards.”

    Actually, it is you and Pakistan that are practicing hypocrisy. Indians are indeed staying in their own land. Kashmir has been Hindu land for over 5000 years. Pakistan too has been Hindu land for over five millennia. So, using your logic and demand, it is you and all the Pakistanis who must “stay in your own” lands in Persia, Central Asian states, Arabia and Turkey.

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  • Surya
    Sep 23, 2014 - 3:27AM

    @syedjalalkashmiri

    I am a kashmiri pandit, and am very much Indian! I’m ethnically dardic kashmiri unlike most kashmiri Muslims who are of mixed unknown ancestry. I and my entire community will fight for a panun kashmir for ourselves, to preserve our Hindu history in the valley which has lasted thousands of years.

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  • Sep 23, 2014 - 4:13AM

    @Haider: Watch a video by Al Jazeera about the real story of Balochistan. It would be the most enlightening experience for you. India is not interfering in Balochistan, and the people of Balochistan have said that if India were to help them, they would welcome it.

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  • Sep 23, 2014 - 4:53AM

    @Moiz Omar:

    How? We have the accession agreement. Remember Jammu and Ladakh are non-Muslim. India has every right over J&K.

    Its time Pakistan stop supporting Islamism in its neighbourhood.

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  • Moiz Omar
    Sep 23, 2014 - 2:10PM

    @BruteForce:
    Junagadh signed the accession agreement with Pakistan, but you still invaded and integrated it didn’t you? Hyderabad declared independence, but you still invaded and integrated it didn’t you? Why do you use that excuse on Kashmir? It is an integral part of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Indian
    Sep 23, 2014 - 3:59PM

    @Sheikh Arif:

    Am from Kerala, south most end of India and my daughter is contributing to Kashmir Floor relief fund at her school. Can you understand meaning of that ?

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  • Sep 23, 2014 - 6:03PM

    The devastation brought by the floods is simply indescribable. It brings much grief to read that many homes and lives have been destroyed in these floods. According to various sources, several thousand homes have collapsed and at least 200 people have died in Pakistan. The pictures clearly depict the pain and suffering of all those who have been affected by the floods. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has been impacted by the floods. We sincerely hope that they will find the strength to deal with this tragedy.

    Ali Khan
    Digital Engagement Team, USCENTCOM

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  • truthbetold
    Sep 24, 2014 - 10:39AM

    @Moiz Omar:

    “Junagadh signed the accession agreement with Pakistan, but you still invaded and integrated it didn’t you? Hyderabad declared independence, but you still invaded and integrated it didn’t you? Why do you use that excuse on Kashmir? It is an integral part of Pakistan.”

    All of Junagadh, Kashmir, Hyderabad and the whole of Pakistan have been Hindu lands for over 5000 years.

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  • truthbetold
    Sep 24, 2014 - 12:17PM

    @US CENTCOM:

    The report is on the devastation in Indian Kashmir and not Pakistan. You must actually read the article before venturing comments. This is a mischievous report aimed at twisting facts and to make India look bad.

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  • philipine234
    Sep 25, 2014 - 12:30AM

    Iftikhar Jilani is a well known controversial figure. He has been in news for wrong reasons, difficult to deduce his innocence while reading his posts here, when he should have rather posted his columns in DNA, where he is editor-in-chief. The motive does send some shivers that could be classed ulterior to his allegiance to his state. Then why should he cry foul if the Indian police wanted to interrogate him on the death of Afzal Guru? It brings us now to his close relationship to the top separatist leader S A S Jeelani in Valley. Things does hv some correlations.Recommend

  • Moiz Omar
    Sep 25, 2014 - 2:29AM

    @truthbetold:
    If by that you mean Pakistan is a part of India, then you sir are very wrong. We are a different country now. Get over it.Recommend

  • Sep 25, 2014 - 5:32AM

    @Moiz Omar:

    My comment has not passed the censors.

    I’ll try again. Junagah there was a Plebiscite and the people chose India.

    In Kashmir, UN Resolutions say Pakistan needs to vacate Kashmir and restore status quo for Plebscite to happen. Since its Pakistan’s position that UN Resolutions should be followed, it is Pakistan which is blocking the Plebiscite.

    Remember, POK is under Pakistan’s control because it too tried to occupy it forcefully. In 1948, Jinnah sent in tribals to capture Kashmir. So, India can’t do it, but Pakistan can?

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  • truthbetold
    Sep 25, 2014 - 1:41PM

    @Moiz Omar:

    “If by that you mean Pakistan is a part of India, then you sir are very wrong. We are a different country now. Get over it.”

    Pakistan is certainly not part of India anymore. It is a sovereign country and a done deal.

    I was pointing out the fallacy in your argument about the areas you mentioned extending the logic to Pakistan also. Most Muslims make a big noise about Muslim lands being under occupation, but don’t accept that non-Muslims, whose lands Muslims have conquered and occupied, have also the right to complain about Muslim occupation and atrocities.

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  • someone
    Sep 28, 2014 - 6:31AM

    @Syed Jalal Kashmiri:
    People who do not think themselves as Indian have to leave Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. Take a boat now.

    Recommend

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