On Thursday a Kashmiri soldier of the Indian Army experienced up close what a citizen in a remote border area can have to face. The soldier’s mother had died while putting up with him in Pathankot where he served. The soldier obviously desired to bring his mother’s body for burial to his native village in remote Karnah. But the soldier’s mother’s body had to wait for four days in Baramulla as heavy snow had blocked road access to his village. Finally, with the help of his relatives and other civilians the soldier managed to take his mother’s body to her village, clearing tracks of snow as they moved ahead carrying it. This last journey of the soldier’s mother shouldn’t have to be this arduous!
A few days earlier a former State official from the same border area of Karnah died in a Srinagar hospital while it snowed heavily in the region. His body too had to wait for four days until relatives managed to transport it to his native village for burial. They too had pleaded for State help but in vain.
We often hear about how the State forces help the common people during difficult times. Forget the State, the Kashmiri soldier’s own employers, the Indian Army was of little help during his emotional ordeal and hour of need. The same army staged rescue operations during the massive floods that hit Kashmir in 2004 and that were hugely amplified by the largest sections of mainstream media as a great favour to the people of Kashmir! Later the army charged 500 crore rupees to state government for the rescue. The army’s Sadbhavna (goodwill) operation is another story of ‘benevolence’ towards the people of Kashmir. But the Kashmiri soldier deserved no Sadbhavna.
We also hear police offering a helping hand to people caught in difficult situations. But the former Naib Tehsildar had become a common citizen after his retirement, and his family experienced the life of a common man, particularly living in the remote border areas where dependence on the army in particular and the local government in general is near full. This is what a serving Kashmiri soldier of the Indian Army and a former State official can have to face if a local. Non-Kashmiris were offered free air tickets out of Kashmir when the floods wrought devastation in 2014. Will this state of affairs light up for the ruling classes the darkness an average Kashmiri citizen’s life is lived in!