There is this scene in Bandini, Bimal Roy’s classic, where a huge fortress-like prison looms up on the screen and prison guards are heard echoing each other from watch-towers: “Sab Theek Hai! (All is well!)” This is supposed to be a means of communication between the guards to enquire, ensure and confirm that everything is fine in terms of the prison’s security. Bimal Roy was indeed a master of the cinematic art as is evident in his movies. The guards’ cry of Sab Theek Hai is used thrice in the movie and every time the call acts as a device to offer a counterpoint because, though seemingly routine in the jail, it serves to highlight the irony that actually ‘all is not well.’
The Sab Theek Hai device is used in Kashmir as well for a different purpose though that does not make it any less ironical. The devastating flood exposed the ineptness of the state. The plea that the flood was a natural disaster of uncommon proportions falls flat in the face of the state’s inertia to deal with even the aftermath of this event. Nearly a month has gone by, but the authorities are yet to float to the surface. However, when it comes to spinning lies about the state of affairs in Kashmir at present, the state machinery, which has been a gross failure on every front, is in top gear.
Perhaps it is unreasonable to expect any efficiency from the state when it comes to rescue or relief and rehabilitation. Its mandate and expertise lies in a totally different area – that of policing the local population and using every possible means of oppression to keep it in check. Of course, this line of argument might sound vacuous and can be countered with the reasoning that dealing with a ‘law and order’ situation and a ‘natural disaster’ of calamitous proportions cannot be compared. But ultimately it is just a matter of priorities. Granted that the availability of resources was grossly inadequate in comparison to the magnitude of the disaster but ultimately it again boils down to priorities. Like during the floods the intricate knowledge of topography which is available to the army was nowhere in evidence when it came to rushing to the rescue of submerged hospitals, including those housing neonates and children in the region’s only paediatric hospital. Stranded tourists and VIPs were easily locatable though.
Now to add insult to the injury, the state through its lackeys as well as its functionaries is trying to paint a rosy picture of how things are shaping up – Sab Theek Hai! Nothing unexpected about this, disinformation after all is a vital component of oppression and the state is quite adept at it. Take healthcare for instance, it is quite evident that the floods have destroyed the healthcare infrastructure. None of the major hospitals hit by the flood are functional but authorities are busy making brazen claims to the contrary. These hospitals which are barely managing to provide rudimentary medical care are being portrayed as having resumed ‘normal’ functioning. Same is the case with education. Authorities have even gone ahead and notified the change in school timings as is usual at this time of the year, again pretending that things are normal. It is as if no school infrastructure has been destroyed or that large sections of the population are not displaced and barely managing their day-to-day existence. Sab Theek Hai.
Of course, there is a design even in this. Does this sound like bringing out the well-worn conspiracy theory? Indeed, one can almost hear the smirks. But it is not about the disaster itself but the way the aftermath of this disaster is being dealt with that is quite consistent with conspiracy. What else justifies the tardiness in relief and rehabilitation by those at the helm of affairs, the helplessness of these local lackeys of the state in the absence of any vigorous attempts by New Delhi at proffering any real assistance? What is the justification for blocking international aid in the face of stupendous economic and infrastructural losses Kashmir has suffered? Why is the Sab Theek Hai device being used at both the local and international levels?
Why else but for the fact that the miserable plight of Kashmir is probably being viewed as an opportunity to further subjugate it! For, isn’t it a fact that economic dependence is a vital component of vassalage? New Delhi has always ensured that Kashmir remains a beggar state because that only can further facilitate the process of its assimilation. In this regard, the flood is indeed an opportunity. The way the flood and its aftermath is being dealt with – and will be dealt with in coming days – is a lesson in how a Natural Disaster can be converted into a Natural Resource for further subjugation and oppression.