After a year since the tragic Kashmir Floods that drastically changed how the valley once looked, the Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA) called for a bandh in the state on September 7. The bandh ‘s anger was directed towards the Narendra Modi-led government, protesting against the poor relief work in the state.
KEA is an amalgamation of various trade associations of Kashmir. They were protesting against the state government for making ‘false promises’ on relief and rehabilitation of the people who have suffered the crisis. The people of the state are mostly relying on their fortitude and the collective resilience of the community to pick up the pieces from one of the most devastating natural calamities in their history.
Traders and other flood victims hold a protest rally during a strike call given by traders, Separatists and Opposition National Conference on the first anniversary of the devastating Kashmir floods in Srinagar on Monday. The strike had been called in protest against the alleged failure of the state and Central governments to rehabilitate the flood-affected people.
Last year, around the same time more than 300 people died and a lot of property was damaged. Even after a year, most of the flood-affected people haven’t received any relief. According to the reports, the Center has released a meagre Rs 2,400 crore while the state government had proposed Rs 44,000 crore for the relief project. In support of the strike, the University of Kashmir called off all the exams scheduled for the day.
A view of the deserted Lal Chowk during the strike.
With the accusations by the separatists and the Opposition against the PDA-BJP government that the official response to the crisis has been superficial, the people themselves are trying to devote their energies to pull themselves out of their troubles.
“In Baramulla district, at a village we were working in, we had the community hastily come together to designate a village-level committee for coordinating among themselves and preparing a collective response to a tragedy that had practically spared no one,” says Tabia Muzaffar of NGO Actionaid India.
Police in action against the traders and other flood victims after they defied restrictions to take out a protest rally during the strike.
“To give one example of how having a collective approach helped this village deal more effectively with the crisis, when one family that had been sheltered at the panchayat hall in the village was served a notice asking them to leave, the community volunteers went in a body to the BDO and got them to reverse that order. The idea was to ensure that each family’s rehabilitation and recovery would be taken up by the community acting as one,” she adds.
“When the floods came it was like a double blow to the people of Kashmir. They were still trying to come out of the shadow of the militancy and the floods just set them back by so many years,” says Sheikh Samir of the J-K Yateem Trust, who worked with villagers in Duslipora as they organized themselves into a village-level committee to combat the crisis.
Police personnel stand guard at Lal Chowk during the strike.
“We were engaged here in an effort to provide mental health counseling to conflict-affected families and had begun to achieve some kind of traction when the floods hit. We couldn’t stand aside then because we saw that the floods had only compounded the miseries inflicted by conflict,” he says.
Former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, donates blood to mark the first anniversary of the devastating floods at the party headquarters.