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23rd May '2007
Divine Retribution

On 18th of May a freak storm, almost like a tornado hit different parts of the State but it was the strongest and the most wide spread in the valley. According to some elders the storm was probably the worst in their memory. It caused havoc to property and scores of people were killed and injured. Trees were uprooted. Roofs were blown away. Dozens of boats capsized in the Dal Lake. In fact the Lake was the worst affected. Probably giving a backlash of the pollution to which it has been subjected! People were running to take shelter while reciting verses from the holy Qur’an. It seemed like some sort of a “Divine Retribution”. Before this we had another natural disaster in February/March. The conditions during the months of February and March in Kashmir made one wonder whether we are being subjected to some sort of a celestial punishment? Kashmiris in the valley had already been reeling under all types of guns and subjected to a worst fate than suffered by any colonised people all over the world. To this continuous torture and harassment was added the physical strangulation of the valley by the closure of the only functioning highway to the outside world. To top it off came incessant rains flooding almost the entire valley. It was probably for the first time in memory that such a massive flooding occurred in the month of March. Kashmir gets usually flooded in autumn when most of the water channels are closed down by the farmers for harvesting of the ripened rice crop. During last two decades the entire civil society in Kashmir seems to have totally crumbled. The civic services leave much to be desired. Roads are in a mess. Water is scarce and uncured. Hospitals are in shambles. Corruption has seeped into our blood. People have become extremely greedy and materialistic. In spite of the fact that we have almost lost an entire generation, we are hardly moved by violence. All of us have been rendered insensitive to acts of violence and consider it as an inalienable part of the daily life. In brief we have gone astray like the nations of Ad and Thamud mentioned in holy Qur’an. The Earthquake which completely destroyed the other side of Kashmir in October, 2005 resembled the punishment described in Holy Qur’an. In one blast thousands of people perished in a matter of seconds. Our environment has abnormally degraded, be it the water bodies, the forests, or even our general living conditions. The Dal Lake is fast turning into a stinking marsh. The River is getting silted and choked with garbage of all types. Some how we have been rendered so much insensitive to these occurrences that we appear like robots immune to finer qualities of life. The life of a Kashmiri is probably the cheapest in the sub-continent. A soldier within Kashmir can kill him with impunity. Outside Kashmir in all parts of India he is hunted and harassed as a potential trouble maker. All Kashmiris are suspect in the eyes of Police all over India. There are umpteen instances of harassment of Kashmiris whether students, traders, or even sometimes just simple visitors. All are hounded as potential terrorists. One is reminded of the similar fate which Jews had faced all over Europe. They too were hounded everywhere and the worst period was during Hitler’s rule when more than six million perished. This was the worst Holocaust faced by them. Kashmiris are also at present scattered all over the world and are homeless as Jews were before the creation of Israel by displacement of Palestinians. Kashmir has its own brand of suffering which has been inflicted on the local people by outsiders belonging to different religions including the co-religionists of the majority, the Muslims. However, it is Kashmiris themselves who have been instrumental in bringing all types of sufferings on to the valley dwellers. Even at present we are facilitating outsiders from both our neighbouring countries to commit all sorts of atrocities on local people. Both countries are exploiting the weaknesses of our character to the maximum possible extent. The first casualty in our society has been the truth. People have forgotten how to speak the truth. No one feels any remorse while speaking a lie in the most brazen manner. We have totally lost the sense of distinction between the believers and the hypocrites. We eulogise rituals and forget the spirit behind these rituals. Jealousy and falsehood are the two most common traits prevalent in Kashmir these days. By nature Kashmiri is not as bad as is made out by outsiders. Unfortunately we are caught in such a bind that the best qualities in our character get no chance to come up. To keep their hold and to ensure their line is towed, both the countries try to patronise the pliable amongst the Kashmiris. And the steadfast get trampled and decimated. Our salvation lies only in building a “National Character”. People have to learn to speak the truth and stand by it no matter what the price. God Almighty says in Holy Qur’an, An-Nisa, Surah 4:135, “Believers, remain resolute in justice and bear witness to the truth, be it against yourselves, your parents, or your kinsfolk. Whether the person concerned is rich or poor, remember that Allah is cognizant of your actions. So do not let your passions take control, lest you swerve from justice. For if you distort the truth or decline to give your testimony, then remember Allah has full knowledge of all that you do.” There is a feeling that the extent of digression from the truth is so much that the God’s wrath would have flattened entire Kashmir long ago. If it has survived so long, it is only because of the Saints who lie buried here. The valley is often referred to as the “Bowl of Saints”. The worst thing to happen in Kashmir has been the growth of some mindless and extravagant rituals and customs associated with weddings and funerals. People, flush with ill gotten money have become what the French call the “Nouveau Riches”, and have introduced some ridiculous customs prevalent in no other society in the world. Even on the occasion of the demise of a loved one, gifts of fruit and other things are brought to the grieving relatives. There cannot be something more humiliating and painful than this! It is like celebrating a tragedy. The wedding feasts have become a competition in excessive and wasteful spending. The poor common people cannot afford these senseless rituals and have to borrow heavily to go along with the society. Presently people have a two point agenda, to make money by all possible means and to build more and more houses and shopping complexes. One is dumb struck by the amount of money people spend on extravagant items but are totally reluctant to support philanthropic causes like taking care of orphans, widows, and disabled children. I had the first hand experience of this callousness on 19th May itself. It was just on the next day of the freak storm. In the morning I attended a Children’s Fete in a local School. There were thousands of people there. The whole parking and the entire space had been jammed with cars. It was good that parents were taking keen interest in the education of their children, which is a moral obligation on all of us. During the day, I attended the foundation stone laying ceremony of a Rehabilitation Centre for Disabled Children being set up by a Voluntary Medicare Society. Not more than 50 people attended the function in spite of 1,000 invitations sent to “Prominent Citizens”. In the evening I witnessed a musical extravaganza in a famous convention centre. It was so much over flowing with people that the organisers had to shut the doors. Can there be something more callous than this? People have strayed very far from the basic tenets of Islam, which has been accepted even by the western philosophers as the best religion in the world. A great western thinker had once remarked that Islam is the best religion in the world but it has the worst followers. He must have had Kashmiris in his mind while uttering the above saying. If we study our tragic history, we have landed from one mess into another continuously for last four centuries or so. Even in recent times whenever an occasion for our salvation seemed very near, we have strangely landed in a bigger mess. So far we experienced only the “Divine Warnings”. Who knows the real “Retribution” may be worse than what we have seen? In spite of all these depressing and cynical situations, Kashmiris do not take a lesson from such terrific sufferings. They have been hardened and have become insensitive to the extreme. However, there is a silent majority, which survives on some kind of a hope and keeps on going along in spite of trying conditions. There is only one conclusion, that the majority is not bad or faithless. It is the minority of hypocrites (Munafiqeen) which is holding the majority a hostage with external assistance. Whenever the silent majority gets a chance, they assert themselves. There is a limit to which the silent majority can be cowed down. Once the limit is crossed, they burst out. This is happening now in many places. People’s resistance against excesses is becoming more and more vociferous and there are daily manifestations of it in different parts of Kashmir. May be the “Divine Punishment” is about to end and the silent majority is on way to emancipation? However, the emancipation can come about and sustain only if the people start speaking the “Truth, nothing but the Truth and learn to stand by it!”

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