By Syeda Mehak Zubair
It’s been a while, since Kashmir was hit by the wrath of river Jehlum but the loss is still immense, the pain still exists and the trauma is still so fresh in our minds.
Even now I recall the tragedy which befell on the people of the valley and it fills me with horror. It must have been day 5 or day 6 of the flood when I visited Bemina, Tengpora for the first time. Houses were still inundated, cars submerged and people who were owners of multi storied houses just five days back, were striving to survive in tents on the divider. They were literally in the middle of the road.
It was these streets, that bore witness to this massive destitution that my attention was caught by a limping horse, he had a broken hoof. It was completely displaced and tilted upwards. The horse was trying to cross the road assumingly look for grass to sustain.
This horse was limping, he was right there, he was in unbearable pain, and he had lost the ability to fend for himself. Nature had stuck him with its fury in a way that left him shelter less and he was right there on the road, he was in unbearable pain. His big eyes filled with sorrow and the black leather of his body covered with mud .The mud that that the soaring water of Jehlum had bought with it. The mud laden horse had lost its pride and its home. He was in the middle of the road, right in front of the eyes, but no one cared!
This pain of his broken hoof seemed in so many ways similar to the loss that Kashmiris felt. Thousands became shelter less overnight but their pain, their unbearable pain did not seem to bother the authorities at all. People, who clearly had lost the ability to fend for themselves, were left to their own fate. O, of course there came the magnificent relief truck, sorry A relief truck came, which threw biscuits on the road and people were left with no option but to fetch them. It does not take a genius to figure out what the share of the old, the weak and ill would have been.
Was it too much too expect that somebody from the authorities would put in efforts of making a line or keeping a local constable to check the crowd to ensure fair distribution ,as much as could be realistically expected. All that I could see in this place which had echoed the misfortune that fell on the valley ,was a relief camp board with a couple of empty chairs and a small tent set up by local volunteers who were trying their best but were clearly under equipped to do so.
I saw young boys fighting, physically pushing each other for a bottle of water, this was no playground tussle it was a battle for survival. But why did it have to come to this? Even if we keep aside the spoilt brat excuses on the lack and failure of rescue efforts from the state government machinery, why on earth did they lag behind so pathetically in the relief efforts? If it weren’t for the locals who took upon themselves the herculean task ofrelief, people who had somehow managed to swim, crawl, limp to safety with broken hopes from the trauma of seeing all they had being washed away ,would have starved to death. Many would have died because of the lack of life saving medicines.
The next day I requested a friend who was working as a volunteer to see whatever help could be provided to the people of this area .He identified around 10 tents and approximately 70 people, he and his friends tried to provide basic amenities to these people but there were so many more who were in an equally if not in a more dire state.
It wasn’t something that could have been managed by few volunteers, it required proper administration, and dare I say the assistance of the elected representatives. Hope kept coming in the form of local volunteers and help groups, sun’s heat dewatered some of the streets and lanes and things are better now.
But this is now, back then when there was urgent and pressing need to nurse the wounds and save the handicapped hopes; the people who should have come forward were completely oblivious.
Although I visit this place quite often, it seemed like a place I had never seen before. The marsh lands I saw every time used to be filled with tress and surrounded by houses, they now seemed like a deep water body that had claimed its place so well, it seemed to have owned it forever.
There were boats and the water accumulation, it did not appear to be just stagnated water, it seemed to have a life of its own, it was calm and I say with astonishment it seemed friendly like it wasn’t even remotely responsible for the loss of life, property, cattle and a sense of safety. Had this black steed not be standing there, in such agony, the wrath of the water that made him handicapped would have been impossible to fathom.
It seemed to be subtly mocking the inhabitants for the lack of empathy and lack of concern the people who were supposed to care had shown. It was making fun of how they had completely been abandoned. It put on a face, so serene that it made it almost impossible to believe that it was what is responsible for breaking the hoof!