History is replete with instances of states or kings seeking distractions from failures by staging pageantry and mass entertainment. And, at worst, the government’s decision to observe September 7 as ‘Revival Day’ – to mark the first anniversary of the floods that ravaged the Valley last year – seems more akin to a Roman emperor arranging games at the Coliseum to keep the masses diverted when, as Shakespeare would have put it, something (smelt) rotten in the state of Rome. Just what ‘revival’ has inspired the government? Something it has achieved or engineered, or, something, to whatever extent, the flood-hit people of Kashmir have managed to salvage on their own? Here, it seems almost beside the point to ask what happened to the much-touted, much-announced relief and rehabilitation plans.
The simple and stark reality is that during the floods, the state had simply vanished, collapsed rather, because it was both unprepared and unresponsive, courtesy its preoccupation with maintaining the ‘law-and-order’ paradigm that takes up most of the space of what is called ‘governance’ in this benighted land. The massive relief and rescue operation that saved lives was run by ordinary people, particularly the younger generation of Kashmiris, who actually seemed to be running the state too. Granted that the PDP-led government intends to pay tribute to the spirit of community and solidarity shown at that time, and ‘recognise’ the ‘unsung heroes’, the Kashmiri youth, for that incredible effort, but the point is that while none among the youth who contributed so selflessly in helping their compatriots at a time of great distress did so for the sake of ‘recognition’ from the government, be it that of Omar Abdullah or Mufti Sayeed, many of the same youngsters are harassed, intimidated and oppressed by successive governments when they run afoul of the state on political grounds.
As of now, it seems that the ‘Revival Day’ will be something of a ‘celebration’ with singers, school students et al asked to ‘perform.’ It will also, reportedly, cost the public exchequer around Rs 26 lakh. Peanuts for sure, but given the miserly scale of relief, rehabilitation and compensation carried out so far for flood-affected Kashmiris, one could still ask whether it’s more important to actually implement the promises made on this count or spend even a single rupee on commemorating a rescue and relief effort the government had nothing whatsoever to do with.