The receding waters seem to have left the Valley divided. Even as those rescued by the Army, Indian Air Force and NDRF personnel praise their efforts, others claim that government agencies, especially the civic agencies, failed to reach them. Meanwhile, relief camps have mushroomed along the roads across the city, all with different loyalties.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Huriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq claims they are running almost 25 relief camps in Srinagar. “Local youth are doing the work voluntarily….carrying out rescue operations. They have saved thousands of lives,” he says.
“The local effort has been much bigger than the government effort and it is unfortunate that this has not been highlighted and appreciated at all. The minority community has chipped in — gurdwaras and temples have also been helping,” he says.
“It is very sad that this is being done with a view to project a certain group or a certain agency as saviors… That is why people have shown anger at times, when they see these helicopters coming in and throwing relief material, because they feel there should have been no politics on this,” says Mirwaiz.
Stating that the “tragedy has brought people together,” Mirwaiz says, “Every community has chipped in… the unity is tremendous. That is the strength.”
There is a long queue of people, including a policeman, outside his house in Nigeen area, all seeking help. A crying woman is given priority. She has lost her house and is seeking help to feed her family. Outside, buses with the Huriyat logo ferry people to safer areas, provide them medical aid. Some cook food for people living in the surrounding areas.
“We have shifted them (those rescued) to 25 relief camps in colleges and mosques. We are thankful to other districts like Sopore, Baramulla, Bandipora who have been sending supplies,” says Mirwaiz.
In Maisuma and its surrounding areas, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Yasin Malik is spearheading the rescue operations. When a group of people recovered a body in the Lal Chowk area, the government officials were missing. Malik and his men took charge and carried out the last rites.
Malik, however, refuses to comment. “Please stop this media and NGO business,” he says. In the narrow lanes of the area, JKLF volunteers cook food as people line up with empty plates.
In areas where the government rescue agencies have not been visible, there is palpable anger among the people. Alleging that the absence of rescue teams was “intentional”, Tariq Ahmed Bhatt, 35, a resident of Nai Sadak, Chandpura, says, “The Indian government did not do anything to save us. The media showed that so many people were rescued, but nobody came here. It was our boys who helped us. We shouted for help. Where was the military for four days?”
Earlier, amid reports of rescue boats being targeted in some areas, Lt Gen Subrata Saha, GOC, 15 Corps, said, “There is angst on the ground. This angst is driven by a lot of anxieties. What you are seeing is a manifestation of a number of anxieties. We have to be humane to this.”
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