By Sourabh Harihar:
The monsoons are on their retreat and the waters of the Jhelum are slowly receding, but what seems to have not quite subsided is the brazen politicization of a calamity that’s most certainly one the worst to have hit the valley. The valley has for long been the centre-stage of jingoistic mud-slinging and patronization. But to have the much-rehearsed drama played out during such a serious catastrophe is unfortunate, if not plain inhuman.
It’s almost a month now since the deadly deluge submerged the entire state, which killed hundreds and left several thousands stranded (reports have suggested these to be anywhere between 3000-5000) without food and proper shelter. Since the very start of this unprecedented disaster, all political entities have seized it as an opportunity to further their own vested interests.
The Indian government, fairly quick on its heels to respond (though it failed to predict the disaster in the first place), has by now doled out Rs. 2100 crores (with 1100 from the State Disaster Relief fund and an additional package from the PM’s fund), while the state government has pitched in with around 200 crore. The numbers, though not so important on such occasions, were particularly highlighted through media-houses. The ensuing rescue operations by the Indian army may have been helpful but the political visits (including the one by the PM) were purely symbolic. And in refusing foreign aid, the Indian government displayed the kind-of knee-jerk reaction that is least expected in times like these. Ironically though, India itself went further in extending an offer of help to PoK regions (which may be contended as an area beyond its political purview).
The relief-operations were projected as a national responsibility (which they most certainly are), but through statements and media discussions, were portrayed as more of a patriotic operation than a purely humanitarian one. While aid and assistance from all corners of the country on such occasions should be welcome, there was a certain political undertone to it. While help poured in, sentiments intensified and those offering help left no stone unturned in making sure that it was acknowledged.
The media houses, at one point, also seemed to have lost it when they started running broadcasts in praise of the army. The whole focus suddenly shifted from the calamity itself towards the army, and how it ultimately ended up as the much-needed saviour. While many were lurking in the shadow of a major havoc, the media got busy covering eyeball-grabbing bits about helicopter-rescues and brave jawans.
It is hurtful to see how murky politics is intertwined with every incident that takes place in the valley. It has forever been the hotspotÂ of Indian politics and also a hotspot for Indian newsmen. But for this one time, both politicians and media-houses could have done more than just the obvious.
This is not to take away from those who actually did help. But on an occasion such as this, one expects that a government and its people look at the situation not as a nation but as a human.