Where Are Separatists?

This was the signature tune of Delhi’s electronic media for its coverage of Kashmir’s devastating floods: where are the separatists.  Safwat Zargar trekked across disjointed city to find the answers for India’s most celebrated anchors

Mirwaiz Umer Farooq in action, visiting flooded areas
Mirwaiz Umer Farooq in action, visiting flooded areas

After floods, Kashmir wears an ambiance of gloom and despair, yet the compassion and care shown by the people unaffected by floods towards flood victims, has kept the hope of resilience afloat.

With the government nowhere visible at first, many local initiatives proved crucial to heal the wounds of affected people. More and more people are turning up day by day to take up the responsibility of people whose lives have been ravaged by the floods.

Pro-freedom leaders were among the first to pitch in; many of them can be seen roaming the streets of Srinagar in trucks and load carriers along with a troupe of their supporters, carrying relief material.

In downtown Srinagar, Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq led Awami Action Committee (AAC) was geared up a day before floods inundated Srinagar. “We had dumped rice, packaged-drinking water and other food stock initially at Mirwaiz Manzil,” says Hurriyat (M) spokesman Shahid Ul Islam. On Sunday when Srinagar was buried under water, miraculously sparing downtown, the group hired few trucks and rescue boats and started rescue operations. “As soon as the number of rescued people rose up, we decided to throw open Islamia High School, Rajouri Kadal for the survivors,” he adds.

At present the group has 28-sub centers while as the heritage school in old city serves as the base camp. During the first week, more than 2000 people were housing here, estimates Shahid Ul Islam. “We fed them, provided accommodation, free medicines and all what we could provide,” he says.

While as dozens of load carriers and mini-trucks reach the base camp every day, the Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz is personally supervising the relief effort. Bilal Gani Lone, a member of Mirwaiz led Hurriyat, is supervising a medical camp near his residence in Rawalpora. Even though the committee’s relief and rescue effort was restricted to Srinagar city first; on Monday, Mirwaiz visited Sumbal Sonawari. He is planning to visit worst-hit Pampore and south Kashmir in coming days.

Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman during his visit to Sikh relief camp on the outskirts of Srinagar. Photo courtesy: Web
Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman during his visit to Sikh relief camp on the outskirts of Srinagar. Photo courtesy: Web

At Rehmatabad, Hyderpora, the office of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Jammu and Kashmir led by Syed Ali Geelani, Peer Saifullah is busy in coordinating relief material to different areas.

In the morning, a medical team, headed by Dr Nayeem Zaffar, son of Geelani, along with half a dozen doctors and assistants, has left for Maloora area. Yesterday, the team was in south Kashmir’s Pulwama, Kakapora and Pampore, where they distributed free medicines and provided medical help to the flood victims.

“We have distributed thousands of ration kits among the flood survivors, besides provided thousands of flood victim families with food and medicines at different relief camps across Srinagar,” says Peer Saifullah, who is heading the Central Relief Committee under the banner of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat.

Currently, Saifullah says, the committee is being helped by its thousands of members and well-wishers, across all the districts. Twenty-five youths of the group had gone to Bone and Joint Hospital, Barzulla, to donate blood. Another twenty-five were dispatched by Saifullah to Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital to help in cleaning.

For fifteen days, the committee supplied rice and vegetables to a number of relief camps across Srinagar. It included some Gurudwara committees also.

Hurriyat Conference JK chairman Shabir Shah distributing relief materials in Srinagar. Photo: KNS
Hurriyat Conference JK chairman Shabir Shah distributing relief materials in Srinagar. Photo: KNS

For days, Hurriyat Jammu and Kashmir (HJK) chairman Shabir Shah has been on continuous tour spree across Srinagar in a truck, distributing thousands of bottled-water cases, biscuits and medicines among the flood victims. Shah has not created a relief base camp rather he has identified some “credible” relief camps to which he has maintained supply of rice, vegetables and other food items.

“Since last 16 days, we are engaged in relief and rescue operations. At my personal level I had advised local mosque committees to chip in, to whom another groups should then ensure the stock of food items,” Shah says. According to Shah, during the initial days of floods, he along with several dozens of volunteers was able to shift a large number of flood affected people, living on road, to relief camps and other buildings.

Shah’s “mobile relief centre” comprising of several trucks and few dozen volunteers arranged relief material from different areas and then diverted it to the flood affected areas in Srinagar. “Our relief trucks were unloaded at various relief camps which house thousands of people,” he says.

Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik hasn’t been home for days. His home at Maisuma Srinagar was submerged. But for last two weeks he was personally rescuing locals and distributing relief. Though he hasn’t set up a camp or relief stock, Malik has mobilized his entire cadre for reaching out to the people.

JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik distributing relief. Photo: Web
JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik distributing relief. Photo: Web

Personally involved in rescue and relief operations around Srinagar city centre, Malik saved and provided relief to many Indian tourists and Kashmiri Pandits who were holed up in Yatri Niwas at Lal Chowk.

“We helped people irrespective of caste, creed, religion or colour,” one of close aides of Malik said.

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