Restoring Devastated Kashmir
By Mohammad Ashraf
04 December, 2014
(Restoring Kashmir to its past glory is neither difficult nor impossible because of the resilience to face all types of adversity; the people have developed for their survival over the ages!)
The massive devastation caused by the recent flood especially in the capital city of Srinagar has made many people comment that it is not only difficult but impossible to restore this historic city to its past glory. The general assessment is that it will take Srinagar more than 10 or even 20 years to come back to what it was before the flood not to speak of turning it into a modern metropolis! Tyndale Biscoe in his book, “Kashmir under sunlight and shade” observes that if the oppression Kashmiris have suffered had been experienced by the British, they would have lost their manhood! It has been the resilience and the stamina of Kashmiris which alone has enabled them to survive the most difficult periods in their long history. Somehow they seem to take all these natural and man-made calamities in their stride. They never give in. Temporarily, they may be down but they always rise like a sphinx to the surprise of everyone. In case of oppressors, they may lie low as a matter of convenience but they burst out once they find a suitable opportunity, thereby giving their tormentors nightmares.
According to official estimates, 282 people were killed, 61,326 cattle were killed, 6.84 lakh hectare crop areas were affected, and 2.53lakh houses were damaged. The low casualty figure in spite of the enormity and suddenness of the flood also points to the fact that a Kashmiri has the capability to survive in the worst possible situations. Notwithstanding the total failure of the administration in arranging rescue and relief, the people kept on going by voluntary efforts of the local youth. The dithering on part of the central government in declaring the disastrous flood as a national calamity has not affected the local voluntary effort and people are not only surviving but going on with their reconstruction and revival programmes as if nothing has happened! On the comments by some that it is difficult and impossible to bring Kashmir especially Srinagar back to its past glory, one is reminded of a road sign on Srinagar-Leh road. It reads, “Difficult can be done now, impossible may take some time!” This seems to be the spirit behind the voluntary efforts going all over the valley to restore normalcy.
It is alleged that the people at the helm in Delhi had wrongly guessed that this disastrous flood had crushed Kashmiris and they will not be able to rise again and would gladly accept the “Mission 44+”. The strategy, according to some experts, was to bank upon total poll boycott especially because of the all-round havoc caused by the flood. This would allow for massive rigging. However, the unusually large participation in elections in spite of the disaster may have thrown a spanner in the works. Delhi may have missed a very good opportunity to lessen the alienation. The perennial dithering may once again give an anti-climax to the rulers in Delhi! As one journalist has observed, the youth of Kashmir seem to have taken the charge. This has been now happening for quite some time especially during some important events in the past. The youth seem to be imbibed by the spirit that they can overcome all difficulties right now and may even achieve what has been labelled as impossible after a while! After all they are the products of the bloodiest conflict Kashmir has seen. They have faced the worst oppression and nothing can cow them down. As has been observed by many Kashmir watchers, the present generation of youth is in a way leaderless or rather they are all leaders in themselves. In fact, the traditional leaders have been following their lead in some recent upheavals like the one in 2010.
These youth do not seem to be impressed by the political jugglers vying with each other to grab the power to once again squeeze everything out of the suffering people. Kashmir has survived for centuries and the secret of survival is the unshakeable faith the people have in their own selves. And the greatest symbol of that faith is the youth of Kashmir. Narendra Modi and all the so called local leaders of all streams are not going to restore Kashmir but the new generation of the youth of Kashmir is going to overcome the difficult as well as the impossible to redeem it to its ancient glory! People seem to have given them a chance to lead them for the time being.
Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir
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