Watching helplessly from the sidelines as Kashmir floods

    As I write this I can’t call home. I have exhausted my contact list; I keep pressing the call button but I hear no voice on the other end. My heart races as I wait to hear from my family and friends engaged in what is a massive disaster.

    Kashmir has been left reeling these last five days, after incessant rains raised water levels causing the worst flooding in decades and leaving at least 175 people dead.

    The Indian-administered capital Srinagar, called the Venice of the East, is currently submerged under water. People are stranded in their houses, standing on their roofs, crying for help to arrive, as their hope and courage washes away.

    There have been constant blocks and breakdowns in communications. Social media has been a source of relief for many Kashmiris in the diaspora. Checking #KashmirFloods on Twitter for real time updates from home brings news but also pictures of broken homes and agonising pain.

    Rescue operations are going at a snail pace and local youth are spearheading the charge in relief efforts, armed with makeshift rescue equipment. The shikaras – wooden boats – that once speared through the still waters of Dal Lake have now become rescue boats on the now fearsome Jhelum River.

    Those in safer and higher areas have opened their homes and other buildings for displaced people. Relief has been arranged by people working on their own without any packages being announced by the Indian administration in Kashmir.

    Young people are risking their lives rescuing those left stranded, even though they are not sure about their own families.

    But when Jhelum’s current gets stronger and breaches dangerous levels in the old city, which lies on the both sides of the river, these local operations will become more dangerous.

    The geopolitics of the occupation and conflict in Kashmir have essentially barred international organisations from bringing humanitarian relief to Kashmir, with the Indian media playing PR lobby for the Indian army and the government whose action on the ground has been dismal.

    Though promises have been made, so have the rhetorical statements of ‘grief’, and it remains to be seen how many Kashmiri bodies will be necessary for the rescue operations to be taken up on the same scale as military operations in the region.

    As the night falls in the city where I was born and brought up, in its alleys which are immersed with floods, I hope that Kashmiris will come out of this tragedy like they have from others.

    We never lose hope.

    Muhammad Faysal bio picMuhammad Faysal was born and raised in the besieged city of Srinagar in India-held Kashmir. He is a blogger and a news buff. Follow him on Twitter.

    – Featured image by Shaikh Farooq, image of shikara via Twitter

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