‘Kashmir: Into the Murky Waters’

A film that intensely captures the agony of September 2014

‘Politics have no relation to morals,’ said Noccolo Machiavelli, sixteenth century historian politician and author of famous political treatise the Prince. Let me add, in our case, politics has no respect for human agonies and pain and politicians have mastered art of exploiting the sufferings of people and fattening on the same. Our history, is replete with instances of politicians building their political castles on the miseries and woes of the people. I am not talking of, the times, when feudalism with all its ugliness and brutalism had made life of the overwhelming majority miserable but of the times, when we had our tryst with the “popular” rule. In our most recent history, there could be no horrendous tale of apathy than the powers that be preferring politicking to mitigating the unbearable sufferings of multitudes of victims of the 2014 floods. For fulfilling its vaulting ambition of ruling Jammu and Kashmir, the Muslim majority state directly, the BJP government at New Delhi instead of helping the state in providing relief to the suffering people and opening coffers of the GOI for rehabilitation of the multitudes, it announced dates for holding of the assembly elections in the state leaving thousands of people whose houses were washed away by the furious waters to suffer vagaries of winter without proper shelters. 

I was reminded of this couple of days back while watching a feature length documentary film titled, “Kashmir: Into the Murky Waters” produced by Associated Media, Srinagar, one of the leading film makers of the State and written and directed by Tarique A Bhat, a mass communication graduate from Kashmir University and a versatile film maker. For fifty two minutes, it was reliving the dreadful experiences of the September 2014 floods of Kashmir. The story of our land is that of nature’s fury and resilience of the people. In fact, it has been nature’s fury that has fostered resilience in this tiny nation living in the bosom of mighty Himalayas for tens of thousands of years. And that has enabled, people of the land to withstand and fight back the devastations and oppressions- and survive the worst times. Our folklore and chronicles are brimming with stories about the devastation caused by the non-stop rains and untimely snowfalls. From ninth century onwards most of the floods have been recorded. History gives us graphic accounts of the destruction caused by the floods during the period of the Sultans of Kashmir, the Moguls and during the nineteenth century. And the response shown by these monarchies towards alleviating the sufferings of the people and initiating steps for minimizing the flood devastations in future, puts the modern day “democratic rulers” to shame. Not to speak of the Sultans of Kashmir even the Mogul Emperors like Shah Jehan personally supervised relief and rehabilitation of the flood hit people. 

The 1893 floods as documented by Sir Walter R. Lawrence are comparable to the September 2014 deluge in certain respects but the economic losses suffered during the recent floods have been ‘astronomical’- according to most conservative estimates the losses suffered have been over 1.5 trillion rupees. Most of the financial experts in the State, opined that it will be impossible to put the state economy back on the rails and difficult for New Delhi to meet the requirements of the state without seeking support from the international donors and global financial institutions. Not only did the GOI reject demands by the civil society formations for international aid but it also turned down offers of aid from the UN Secretary General and other global aid institutions and Non-Governmental Organizations. And whatever a little international aid trickled down to the State, it has been from the Kashmir Diaspora Organizations- registered with GOI. It was almost after five months persistent demand by the civil society and advocacy by the newspapers and columnists that the GOI allowed the teams of the World Back and Asian Developmental Bank to visit Kashmir for assessing of the losses suffered by the state more particularly by the Kashmir Valley. And these international organizations might have by now also submitted their reports and recommendations to the GOI. 

Now, when the elections in the state are over. And the BJP’s dream of ruling Jammu and Kashmir has materialized by cobbling an alliance with the PDP, it is high time for the administration to work towards rebuilding Kashmir and rehabilitating the people. In undertaking rebuilding infrastructure in state and rehabilitating the people, the well-researched documentary by Tariq A Bhat and his associate Wajahat A Kashtwari could work as a lodestar for the governments in Jammu and New Delhi for drawing comprehensive plans for reconstruction of the infrastructure and rehabilitation of people. The hair raising scenes of the furious waters washing away everything in its way; the buses, trucks, jeeps and cars floating down the inundated roads like straws in oceans, the massive houses crumbling like pack of cards and the plight of people caught up in murky waters captured by the dare devil crew of the production house, are in itself an ugly commentary on our bad planning and wrong prioritization. 

The September 2014 floods besides being a story of unprecedented devastation is a saga of courage and determination of the youth of Kashmir – the brave hearts that rescued seven hundred thousand people by constructing indigenous rafts from every conceivable material. By capturing rescue operations carried out by some youth, the documentary gives us a fair idea about the commitment of younger generation towards their people. Notwithstanding, collapse of the government and failure of the state administration, the youth by organizing medical camps and relief centres saved the state from the post-flood epidemics and famine- witnessed in the past. Nevertheless, the story of brave hearts needs to be told in full length. 

True, the film ‘Kashmir: In the Murky Waters’ is wonderfully done documentation of the 2014 flood- something of great historical relevance. Nonetheless, what makes this film more important is, roping in scientists and experts from diverse fields for analysing the causes for this disaster- With inputs from experts the film turns up to be a treatise on environment, ecology and bad development that proves that disaster was manmade and not the God’s retribution. The documentary is futuristic in as much as through animations, interviews with experts and scientists it identifies fault lines in our planning in persevering our environment, encouraging religious tourism beyond thrush hold capacity.