The Bold Voice of J&K

A time for restraint

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Piyush Chandra

The flood affected people of Kashmir have all the reasons to be angry. Let down by the government they had voted to power, the hapless victims of nature’s fury have been left to fend for themselves. Unfortunately, this pent up feeling frustration and outrage against the government and the administration found release in the form of stone pelting at army vehicles carrying relief material and attacks on persons of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). There were also reports that a set of boats kept ready for emergency rescue operations was commandeered by local youth and that due to threats of stone pelting, landing of four Air Force helicopters carrying relief material at the helipad in Raj Bhawan had to be aborted. Though totally uncalled for, this violent expression of public angst needs to be viewed dispassionately. According to sources, these incidents were the result of rumours that non locals and the kith and kin of VIPs were being accorded preferential treatment by the rescue teams and provision of relief material to flood hit victims was being inordinately delayed. The stone-pelters obviously overlooked the fact that when the army has itself accorded a higher priority to the evacuation of civilians over the more than 1,000 marooned families of its own personnel, where is the reason to suspect that some people are being given preferential treatment during rescue operations?
While public rage under the grim conditions prevailing in Kashmir is but natural, the need of the hour is to guard against falling prey to rumours and resorting to acts of violence as this would have an adverse impact on rescue and relief work. There is a need for the elders to restrain the youth from indulging in acts which could well end up impeding the progress of rescue and relief work as it would only increase the sufferings of those still trapped by floodwaters. The government machinery has completely failed and the entire responsibility of undertaking rescue and relief work has fallen on the shoulders of the army, air force and NDRF teams. The fact of the matter is that while the magnitude of the floods is humungous, the resources available for rescue and relief work are limited. The Army is working as per plan and since the scope of this rescue operation was massive, rescue efforts had to be prioritised, “both in terms of areas and persons.” While rescuing trapped civilians, priority was being given to the old, infirm, women and children. I am sure that no one would have any objection to this very reasonable and logical priority for evacuation worked out by the army.
So, in reality, there has been no discrimination during rescue work. However, it is possible that some people who were ‘left behind’ by rescue teams may not have been aware that evacuation was being undertaken based on priority. Thus they could have misconstrued the priority being given to the old, infirm, women and children for evacuation as ‘preferential treatment’ and may have felt discriminated against. Cut off from the world by floodwaters, the trapped people may not have known the full extent of the calamity and could have never imagined that it could be so enormous. However, those who pelted stones and roughed up NDRF men had access to news and would have known that neither can evacuation of all marooned people be undertaken concurrently, nor can rescue operations be undertaken in all localities simultaneously. Therefore, instead of appreciating the good work being done to bring trapped people to safety, it is unfortunate that these people still indulged in unruly acts against those who are working tirelessly to rescue their trapped brethren.
The approach roads to the flood hit areas have suffered extensive damage and getting in the required rescue and relief stores is time consuming. The army alongwith the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is in the process of repairing roads and setting up bridges to speed up the movement of rescue and relief material. In this task, the local youth is working shoulder to shoulder with soldiers and the army is appreciative of their wholehearted involvement. It is thus sad to hear that while the majority of the people are doing their best to help in the rescue and relief work, a few stone pelters are targeting military vehicles carrying relief material and attacking NDRF teams conducting rescue operations. If tardy progress of rescue and relief operations is the cause of their anger, then why are they themselves further hindering the already slow pace of this work by attacking NDRF men and creating such a scare of stone pelting so as prevent relief material carrying helicopters from landing? This is the question those who claim to be so worried about the safety and wellbeing of their trapped that they are resorting to such acts, must ask themselves.
During a crisis of such gargantuan proportions, the need of the hour is to maintain one’s composure and make whatever positive contribution that one is capable of. This is time when getting the trapped people to safety and providing them succour should be foremost in our minds. This is time when rumours which instigate the gullible youth into indulging in acts of violence against rescue and relief teams need to be stopped from spreading. This is the time to set aside old prejudices and continue assisting the rescue and relief teams. Even if someone is unable to do so for any reason, one can atleast spread the word around that everyone should exercise restraint and create a harmonious atmosphere in which rescue and relief work can be accelerated. This is certainly not the time to behave irrationally and try to settle old scores as the same will only jeopardise rescue and relief work and add to the suffering of the flood victims. The Hurriyat has been conspicuous by its silence till now. No one expects them to praise the rescue and relief work being done by the army, but for the sake of the trapped people, they can at least advise the youth not to indulge in acts that hinder rescue and relief work.

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