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Millennium Post

No time to dig up differences

There is a time and place for everything. The unprecedented floods in Jammu and Kashmir is one instance when every ounce of mutual difference of opinion should be drowned in an effort to bridge the gap and work towards alleviating the staggering crisis. The Indian Army, which has had a difficult equation with the Kashmir valley and a chequered history of its own in other ‘conflict zones’, however, is doing a commendable job at rescuing the stranded victims. Over one lakh have been evacuated and returned to safety, but six lakh still remain trapped in the watery desert of Srinagar, Anantnag and other affected regions. If there’s one emotion that is legitimate at this hour it is one of heartfelt gratitude and sense of oneness with the army and rescue teams from National Disaster Response Force. Yet reports have started emerging that some rogue elements have been pelting stones, even stabbing the rescue squad and creating impediments for the relief operations.

In the middle of the raging flood and gushing waters from River Jhelum and an overflowing Dal Lake, victims, stranded without food, drinking water, electricity or even a communication network for days, are likely to have pent up emotions. But fomenting separatist inclinations at the expense of local grievance against the sluggish response of the state government or its near inability to comprehend the scale and impact of the disaster, is simply not acceptable.

Whether or not native sentiments, a very disparate and diverse bunch of inclinations and intentions in the first place, have been hurt by the Indian Army in the past is clearly not the question of the hour. It is time for rescue operations and saving lives; and indeed, locals everywhere have cooperated immensely whenever they could have. Soldiers have lost their loved ones in the flood but carried on with the rescue operation, a task too formidable to be left with the rather inept J&K state government.

As international glare on the Kashmir floods refuses to go away, our internal squabbling in times of such an unfathomable catastrophe is a matter of shame. Let the Army and the allied relief troops do their job. Let’s be thankful to the jawan who risks his life to save others. In fact, separatism is hardly the moot point here. What is important is to ask the real question: why are environmental disasters becoming oh-so-frequent in the Himalayan kingdom? From Ladakh to Uttarakhand and now Kashmir valley, it seems the mountains, hitherto India’s great geostrategic natural defence wall, have turned against us. The relentless destruction of these sensitive ecosystems is beginning to extract a steep price. But we are busy either giving it a communal colour, or glorifying/demonising the only functional institution and glimmer of hope in these trying times.       

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