Compassion and solidarity among fellow citizens

It rained continuously for days in the first week of September. The water level kept on rising and crossing the danger mark. Signs of a great disaster to overtake Kashmir were evident. Panic, shock and fear then had gripped everyone. And finally, the worst-ever flood arrived and submerged the Valley. As a result, we have lost enough as lives and property. But we have not lost all. Our hearts are enriched with love and sympathy for others. These feelings stood unveiled during and after the calamity.

The flood washed away every thing from streets to kitchen rooms. It also broke power and communication links. With out these facilities, we lost touch with one another. We could not even contact our immediate neighbors. The only source of communication remained the ‘Radio Kashmir Helpline’ before it too became causality to the deluge. But amid this worst situation, the people who were safe did not leave their fellow citizens in lurch. Instead, they did their best, by risking their own lives, to rescue those caught in the flood. They indeed did a heroic job when it was needed. That was a great service to humanity and that showed that, in times of crisis, we Kashmiris never hesitate to sacrifice ourselves for the safety of others. It is this sense of solidarity which has been the only positive thing for us from the flood. We must feel proud of our Kashmir for this exemplary sense of oneness and sympathy in times of great trouble. I salute the people who set this historical example!

Not only during the flood but also after it, we saw a flood of sympathy and solidarity flowing out of the hearts of these bold and generous people. At every village, people voluntarily donated their clothes, quilts, mattresses, blankets, tea, milk, match boxes, candles, rice, vegetables, cooking oil, utensils and even apples. These things were collected at a spot in villages. The people were informed over loud speakers for the great work. Every one took part with zeal. Children, young people and the old competed in donating these things. It really was a supreme show of solidarity and compassion. Then these things were packed separately and each pack was marked on the outside for a quick delivery. After this, they were loaded in trucks and delivered to the deserving people affected by the flood. Though it was not a big help, it did show that great human values have not died in us. We do realize our duty to one another when a calamity hits us. This realization is an asset with us. Let us hope that it continues as a solid bond among us. And it enables us to work in cooperation to make Kashmir our pride.

Now that the flood has given us a strong blow, it has devastated our business, economy, homes, hospitals, educational institutions, roads and orchards. We were helpless before it. But we should translate this tragedy into an opportunity to realize that all of us are responsible for it. True, the government can not escape responsibility. But we too are responsible for the catastrophe.

The government, present one or past, has never educated people about the natural disasters like the recent one. We lack flood monitoring mechanisms to oversee the behavior of our water bodies during constant rains. Every thing is left to destiny. And as a result, an illegal construction of residential houses, schools, shops and health centers goes on with out stop close on the banks of the water bodies. The government is duty bound to monitor this construction, but it seems to show indifference and apathy towards it. The result is an attack on the natural course of the water bodies. And we have now paid a huge price for our anti-nature actions.

Even we, the public, share a responsibility for the flood.  There are clear rules and regulations about any construction on the banks of water bodies. But we ignore them and construct on the banks of rivers, streams and ponds. This heavily affects the natural course of these water bodies. And so the water breaks its banks. Such constructions should now stop. We must realize that we are the citizens of this world famous land and so should do our bit of duty to it. Let us not blame the administration only: let us blame ourselves as well. It is time to introspect; it is time to learn from our mistakes.

Back to the service, out of sympathy and love for the fellow citizens by us, one hopes that the same spirit survives and remains the only yardstick during the relief and rehabilitation operation which is happening now. The authorities should take a leaf out of the book of the people who helped the flood- hit people during and after the disaster. The flood affected people fear of exploitation and favoritism in the relief operations as our administration carries stains of being corrupt to the back bone. But the administration has a golden opportunity to prove its critics wrong. That will enable it to improve its image. That will also help it to win the hearts and minds of people.

Author can be mailed at sheikhshabir518@gmail.com