The broken hoof and the story of Kashmir’s flood ravages

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IT has been nine long months since the beautiful Indian administered Kashmir was besmeared by an all engulfing river Jhelum. But the long tale of suffering and loss to human lives, which the September 2014 flood unleashed, still is fresh in our minds.

Even now whenever I recall the tragedy I am filled 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 all inundated and cars submerged. People who had been the proud owners of multi-storey houses were suddenly in tents at the divider, striving to survive the ordeal.

It was in one of such streets crowded with languishing men and women that my attention was caught by a limping horse. The poor creature had a broken hoof which was completely displaced and tilted upwards. The horse was trying to cross the road, while looking for a handful of grass to eat. God knows, for how many days he had had been without food.

Nature’s fury had left him shelter less and he was out on the road in unbearable pain, trying to fend for himself. His big eyes were filled with sorrow and the black leather of his body was covered with a thick coat of mud. Nobody seemed to care for this ailing horse, now bereft of his luster and pride.

In so many ways, the pain of his broken hoof seemed similar to the loss the Kashmiris had suffered. Thousands had been rendered homeless overnight but the authorities remained unmoved. People – old, young, and the injured, were left to their fate. True, there was a hint of relief work in the form of a truck from where some government volunteers threw packets of biscuits. People had no choice but to accept it, although 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 to expect that the authorities would make an effort to assemble people in a queue and assign a constable to ensure fair distribution? But all that I could see in this God-forsaken place was a relief camp board with a couple of empty chairs and a small tent set up by local volunteers.

I saw young boys fighting and pushing each other in order to grab a bottle of water. No, it was not a sport. It was a battle for survival. And that speaks volumes about the absolute lack of crowd management on part of the administration. If it weren’t for the locals, who took upon themselves the herculean task of relief, people would have starved to death. It were the local heroes who reached out to and helped all those who had escaped from being drowned by swimming, crawling or limping to safe havens.

The speedy distribution of life-saving drugs by local volunteers helped them survive.

The next day I requested a local volunteer, who was a friend of mine, to reach out to people in this area. He arranged around 10 tents to accommodate approximately 70 people, and helped them in every way he could. But a large-scale relief work needed the involvement of the administration and our elected representatives who remained out of sight. But the local volunteers came like a beam of hope to the afflicted people, and by God’s grace some of the streets and lanes and things are in better shape now.

The flood had left its imprints on the locality. Now whenever I visit this place, it seems to me unfamiliar. The marsh lands which used to be filled with tress and surrounded by houses are replaced by a deep water body that seems to have claimed ownership of it forever.

There were boats all around and there was water accumulation all over.

There was a spate of activity with local volunteers trying to help out the needy ones. And strangely, the water did not seem to me unfriendly. It did not seem to me the intruder who had besieged our land and devastated it. There was calmness about it. Had this black steed not been standing there, the wrath of the water would have been impossible to fathom.

The water seemed to be subtly mocking at the inhabitants for the lack of empathy on part of the administration who are duty bound to support the former. It was making fun of how the common man had been so ingloriously abandoned. And yet, it put up a face so serene that it was impossible to believe it had broken the hoof. –Authint News

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