An event management group in collaboration with the State Tourism Department organised the longest Iftar party for Kashmiri orphans on the Boulevard along the famous Dal Lake which is practically in throes of death! Apart from the fact that the event highlighted the orphans of conflict in Kashmir which at present according to some estimatesnumber more than two hundred thousand because of the upheaval of nineties, it also demonstrated numerous other “orphaned” aspects of the once so called “Paradise on Earth”! To begin with, one can take the Dal Lake around which the event was held. The famous Lake is not only the main attraction of the capital city of Srinagar but is in reality the heart of Kashmir. The Lake is totally orphaned. It is dying and may not last long. No one is really concerned. There is lot of pinning about the state of the Lake but no substantial productive work. The efforts so far are keeping it on a ventilator and not curing its real disease which is the encroachment by one and all, within and all round it!
Asia’s second largest sweet water lake, Wular, is in a worse condition. All other water bodies are dying and virtually orphaned. Same status is of the River Jhelum, the historical lifeline of Kashmir. It has been continuously washing the sins of the perpetrators of Kashmir and the last disastrous flood was its angry outburst. It has been vandalised and encroached all along its embankments. The rulers have not had the time to cleanse it of the silt and mud for almost a year now. They are still debating and discussing the proposals but the River is not going to wait and may strike once more with deadly ferocity!
In fact, the entire environment of the state is facing the worst kind of degradation witnessed ever during its long history. The forest cover has been denuded at an alarming rate. Unscrupulous timber smugglers with the connivance of authorities have massacred the young and budding forests of Kashmir. One of the causes of the last year’s flood has been massive soil erosion in the catchment areas. The rains have a quick run off giving rise to flash floods. Soil is not in a position to fully absorb the water due to its denuding.
Going beyond environment, all other aspects also appear “orphaned”! Be it the rehabilitation of the last year’s flood sufferers or the restoration of infrastructure. A contradictory ruling set up which is an unnatural combination of the North and the South Pole has not been so far fully successful in getting the grip of the situation at the ground level. They seem to be suffering from a paralysis induced by the political and ideological contradictions.
Same is the situation on the larger political canvass regarding the future political set up of the “Disputed” State. United Nations which had taken upon itself the resolution of the more than half a century old political problem has virtually washed off its hands from any future intervention. The western powers which were so much clamouring about Kashmir and Kashmiris few decades back too have withdrawn and left the fate of the territory and the “Orphaned” people inhabiting it to the whims and fancies of its two warring neighbours. The height of irony is the role of the World Bank which brokered a treaty between the two countries over the waters of a “Disputed” territory without even bothering about its inhabitants and leaving them perennially in an “Orphaned” state of total darkness!
The organisers of the event would have inadvertently done a good turn if their global media coverage draws the attention of the world to the totally “Orphaned” state of Kashmir and its people!