Monday, December 1, 2014

Kashmir: A Paradise Lost

"Kitni khoobsurat yeh tasveer hai Mausam bemisal be-nazeer hai Yeh Kashmir hai, yeh Kashmir hai." This soulful song and many other reverberate in my mind when I think of Kashmir, A paradise on earth. This northern state of India has mesmerized millions of people worldwide for ages with its unbridled beauty. With abundant scenic beauty, picture perfect snow laden mountains, flora and fauna, capable of turning you into a poet, Kashmir undoubtedly is an epitome of beauty, a heaven on earth.
Kashmir: Dal Lake
Dal Lake
Kashmir: Shikaras
Shikaras & Dal Lake
In past, no Hindi movie was ever complete without being shot at various picturesque locations of Kashmir; its beauty casting a spell on everybody who got a dekho at it. Every inch of this land oozes serenity, beauty, be it the snow covered mountains, the pristine Dal lake, the majestic gardens, the ubiquitous Chinar trees or the verdant land. Everything about it is exquisite, beyond explanation, only to be experienced, felt, consumed, and relished. Heavens would have taken special time, expertise to create this nature’s bounty on earth for mortals to enjoy and rave about. If gods would have chosen to stay on earth, they would have definitely chosen Kashmir. Though there is a twist in the tale and that too on the worst side.
Kashmir: Snow clad mountains
Snow clad mountains
Kashmir: House Boats & Dal Lake
Many facets of beautiful Kashmir
Kashmir: Shikaras in Dal Lake
Ubiquitous Shikaras

Who is responsible for this mayhem?

Since long, this paradise has been experiencing unrest, terrorism, thanks to our neighbor who has cast an evil eye on this region. To not allow the people of Kashmir enjoy peace and tranquility, is what this neighbors sinister plan is, though every attempt of theirs has been thwarted by our brave Jawan’s who toil, risk their lives in this part of the world to maintain peace, and to alleviate people’s misery. To add to the woes, some of the separatists groups here are doing everything possible to thwart every attempt of progress and growth for the people. A common Kashmiri is tired of this instability and wants a peaceful life for himself and his family. In the past peace was like a flash in the pan, very short lived. But in the recent times, except for few skirmishes here and there, Kashmir has been peaceful, thanks to the Indian army. Kashmiris have taken the difficult past in their stride, and were looking forward to a meaningful life, and then a tragedy struck again, a man made tragedy, a result of their ongoing abuse of the nature.

Nature's Fury
How long the nature is going to withstand its unabashed, rampant abuse at the hands of an insatiable beast called Humans? It is going to retaliate, and retaliate hard when the line is crossed. This is what nature did to Kashmir. It has flooded the Kashmir valley like never before, throwing the wretched life of a Kashmiri out of gear. The recent floods in the valley have wreaked havoc, resulting in unprecedented loss life and property. The water level is yet to recede and Kashmiris are forced to commute using make shift boats through the lanes. Entire belongings of most of the Kashmiris are for everyone to see, floating as debris on the water. They have been perched on roof tops for days to save themselves from these marauding floods, sans food, medicines and bare necessities. 

Kashmir Floods: Flooded Lanes
Flooded Lanes
Kashmir Floods: Debris floating on water
Debris everywhere
When nature strikes hard it makes no difference between young n old, rich n poor, it simply decimates anything that comes in its way. Many Kashmiris have lost their lives to this rule of the nature. Many of them are still marooned in far flung places waiting eagerly for a Good Samaritan to get them out of this mess. Along with the belongings many of them have also lost the hope, their despondent look says it all. Water, the nature’s boon to humans is now turned into a bane. A bird’s eye view of the valley gives an impression of city of Venice, but with pain, misery, hopelessness as its companions. Why this has happened to Kashmir? Who is responsible for this tragedy? The answers are many and harsh, is anybody going to take them head on?

Kashmir Floods
Kashmir floods

My Bad, will someone accept the wrongdoing?

Nature is resilient and kind enough to overlook man’s mistake and maintain the required balance, but when this abuse, reaches a crescendo, nature fights back with vengeance. This is exactly what happened to the valley. Sustained deforestation, shrinking water bodies, encroachment on Eco-sensitive areas, scant or no regards to nature’s requirement, contributed to this catastrophe. Statistics say the Dal Lake has shrunk to 15 square kms from 25 few decades ago. Massive encroachments in the form of hotels, new structures, and house boats are the real culprits for this ignominy. Other water bodies like canals have been buried under the debris to make way for multi-lane roads. Wanton deforestation to accommodate farm houses and forests trails for the rich and the influential can be attributed to this damage. Polluting the environment adds to the tally. This has been the story of the Kashmir valley for some time now. Environment with its caring nature, does provide warnings to mend our ways before hell breaks loose, but we humans pay no heed to these signs and continue the rape of the Mother Nature. The local authorities failed to implement the contingent plan when similar ominous signs were broadcasted by the nature, the result the current mayhem. Who should be tried in the court of law for these many murders? The corrupt officials who permitted constructions where they should not have been, or the authorities who allowed encroachments on the Dal Lake and elsewhere? Or the callous politicians who never understood the meaning of, “a planned development in harmony with nature?” Or for that matter the common Kashmiri, who littered, polluted the surroundings with no regards to the cry of the Mother Nature. 

Kashmir floods: Who is guilty
Who is responsible for this tragedy
Whoever it is, the damage is already done. Some of the locals, who spent most of their lives in the valley, rue the present conditions. Amitabh Mattoo (Chief Executive Officer & inaugural Director of the Australia India Institute and Professor of International Relations at the University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) who spent his childhood in the valley reminisces the wonderful years when the valley was at its best, the time spent in using the shikaras to commute from one place to other in the Dal Lake. The valley was far from the hustle and bustle of today and was serene and beautiful. He feels sorry for the current state of affairs in his birthplace. There are many who had the privilege of staying in this paradise and who echo the same sentiments as Amitabh Mattoo.

What next?

The people of Kashmir are an agitated lot, for many reasons. The rescue mission and the help provided by the government are far from satisfactory. There is a heavy shortage of food, medicines, and the people are losing their patience. There have been rumors of influential and selected few given precedence during the rescue operations by the local government. This has upset the others and are hurling abuses at the politicians. During this entire clamor, Indian army has been working round the clock rescuing people while putting their lives at stakes. More than a lakh people have been rescued so far by the army and counting. People of Kashmir want others to help them get out of this rut, and provide food, shelter, medicines. There is a great chance of epidemic outbreak which can augment their problems. The silver lining to this is the humaneness demonstrated by people practicing different faiths. There have been stories wherein a Hindu family feeding a Muslim family, in turn a Muslim family providing shelter to the distressed Sikh family. Sikh families sharing their medicines with others, even though they had a small supply. This is truly endearing and proves, humanity still existing on this earth. Though this bonhomie always perplexes many, why a distress is a catalyst for people of different faiths to stay in peace together and help each other. Why can’t we practice humanity at other times as well? People of India have risen to the occasion and are helping fellow countrymen, Kashmiri brothers and sisters resurrect their lives. Monetary help besides other is flowing to the valley to get their life on track and bring hope in their distraught lives. 

When are we going to learn the lessons?

Uttarakhand tragedy is still fresh in our minds when this happened. We have still not learnt any lessons from the past mistakes and continue to take nature for granted. What needs to be done so that we respect nature and handle it with care? Obviously we don’t need any more upheavals to give away our insane behavior. Let’s get educated and compassionate towards the nature. Let’s not tear apart the ecosystem by our indifferent practices and allow it to avenge our misdeeds. The choices have to be made now, either live in harmony with nature and benefit from its magnanimity or abuse it to get decimated.
We hope this calamity gets over soon and we see Kashmir in all its glory, giving happiness, and pleasure to the visitors. More importantly we hope life of Kashmiris return to normalcy and that they prosper, though not by tearing apart the nature’s gift, but living in harmony with it.
Kashmir Floods: Rebuilding Kashmir
The Kashmir we want to see
Kashmir Floods: Chinar Leaf
Chinar Leaf - Identity Of Kashmir

Kashmir Floods: Shikaras in all its glory
Shikaras in all its glory
Thanks a lot to my friend Sonika and Kartik for sharing their personal collections of Kashmir photos with me.

Hat's off to our army for the rescue operation they have undertaken risking their own lives. This article won't be complete without mentioning many aid workers, journalists, commoners who are spending sleepless days and nights and giving a new life to many affected people.


  1. Hope this bful place return s to normalcy and the ppl of Kashmir can breathe a sigh if relief.

  2. Thanks Sameer for empathising with a common kashmiri. I myself witnessed the flood havoc , truly the warth of mother nature. Life is now limping bak to normal by grace of God.I take this opportunity to share few facts which unfortunately were fabricated by media and the people outside kashmir obviously see the picture that media shows them.
    1. Role of Army : We were happy to see Army helicopters adjacent to our house as we were struggling on the second story of our 19 ft water logged house.It pained to see them selectively rescue VIP's and tourists only.And the media glorified the Army's efforts. Kudos to kashmiri youth for saving thousands of lives irrespective of meagre resources.
    2.PM Modi's visit : It was a surprise when Mr.Modi announced that he would be celebrating Diwali with flood victims.Sea of people including children were waiting to meet him.He disappointed us by just spending just a couple of hours in Kashmir, and did not meet even a single flood victim .What a cruel joke!
    3.Many Food packets from helicopters used to fall into flood water and got wasted.

    My sincere thanks to people across India and world who put in efforts to help us.

    1. Hey Sonika, thanks for spending time to speak your heart out. I know what a Kashmiri has gone through in the recent past including you. My heart goes out to all the Kashmiris who are battling for a normal peaceful life. With regards to your observations I do agree with you to some extent, There were cases where VIPs and other selective people were given preferences in evacuating them to safe places, and its an awful thing to do when a life is trying to stay afloat, but at the same time there were efforts made by our army to help people in distress, and I totally agree with the role played by Kashmiri youth, common man, journalist etc. who risked their life to save the fellow Kashmiris, and I have mentioned that in my blog. They are no less than hero's for me and for others. Some of my friends from Jammu were stationed all this while to help evacuate the people stuck in the floods. This is commendable and great service to humanity.

      Modi not meeting the flood victims, I don't know why, to be very frank. he might have had his own issues to deal and to take care off I think.

      I wish you and all the Kashmiris the best, and I hope with their effort and gods grace everything will be fine very soon. We all want to witness the Paradise again and that too very soon, god willing it will.


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