Occupational Hazard- Militarisation and Disaster Vulnerability in Jammu and Kashmir: J&K Coalition of Civil Society

Guest post by JAMMU AND KASHMIR COALITION OF CIVIL SOCIETY 

Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society recently released a report called ‘Occupational Hazard: The Jammu Kashmir Floods of September 2014. The full report is available at jkcss.net. The following is a short executive summary. 

The Jammu and Kashmir floods of September 2014, occurred in the most densely militarized occupied territory in the world, located in one of its most ecologically fragile– the Western Himalayan region—called the ‘third pole’ for its enormous glacial reserves of fresh water. Warfare, armed conflict and prolonged occupations are widely considered among the most environmentally destructive activities known to mankind. Yet the role of the massive military deployment, and the militarised governance structures of Jammu and Kashmir has not received much attention in this analysis. The military occupation of J and K has included the expropriation, and weaponization of huge areas of land, the building of large scale permanent military installations, and the creation of militarised infrastructure in the ecologically fragile Himalayas, which have contributed directly to the region’s disaster vulnerability. The occupation of civic amenities, public buildings and community spaces has also had a direct impact on emergency preparedness, evacuation and humanitarian response. Using official documents, news reportage, case studies, and oral narratives, the report explores the causes and impacts of the flooding, and local community responses, in terms of survival, rescues and relief. It also presents an analysis of the dominant media framing of the disaster, and the local resistance to media narratives of the militarised humanitarianism of the Indian occupying forces. This report thus raises questions of accountability, governance, media representation, political participation and democracy in the backdrop of a militarised occupation, at the disputed borders of a security state.  Chapter 1, The Flooding of Kashmir A Brief History provides an over all historical and geographical background to the Jhelum river system, and floods and flood management works in the Kashmir valley. It delineates the progress of the September 2014 floods in Kashmir accompanied by an analysis of official warnings and gauge readings.

Chapter 2, Landscapes of Occupation describes the features and consequences of the militarised warfare ecology of Jammu and Kashmir, where the landscape is littered with permanent military installations, and militarised development infrastructure is seen as a crucial aspect of political and territorial control. This chapter provides a classification of the extent and kinds of land under military occupation, and an account of the effects of militarised land occupation, tourism projects and development infrastructure during the recent floods. Through illustrative case studies from rural Pulwama, and an urban Srinagar neighbourhood, the chapter provides insights into the nature of devastation suffered in the floods of 2014, especially by highly militarised and vulnerable communities, and throws light on micro- ecologies and local land use patterns and their effect on the inundation.

Chapter 3, Chronicle of a Flood Foretold, Militarised Governance and the Floods, documents the legal, and regulatory frameworks, plans and institutions of disaster risk reduction, flood control and water resources conservation and management, land use and infrastructure building in Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir. These agencies and regulations have an official role to play in development, disaster preparedness and prevention, but failed abysmally in their responsibilities. The Chapter attempts to unravel the structural causes for the Jammu and Kashmir state government’s endemic negligence, and apparent apathy. It argues that these governance structures exist within the political economy, and militarised strategies of an occupying power that influence and inform their organisation, purpose and day-to-day functioning in Kashmir.

Chapter 4, Flooded Lives Evaluating the Impact of the Kashmir Floods, describes the effect of the September Floods, on the lives, public infrastructure and economy of the Kashmir valley, The initial section presents the overall impact in various regions and sectors of socio-economic life of the valley, supplemented by field work based case studies and photographs. Thereafter the chapter focuses more closely on the public health sector, and medical facilities in Srinagar and neighbouring Budgam. Through four analytical and descriptive case studies of differently located hospitals, it offers an insight into how doctors, patients and medical staff survived the flooding.

Chapter 5, Rescue Relief and Resistance describes events and responses in the aftermath of the floods. The dominant Indian media and official narrative in relation to the Kashmir floods has been that of local administrative failure and the heroic humanitarianism of the Indian defence forces. This Chapter aims to retrieve critiques of and resistance to militarised rescue and aid, and document local histories of community volunteerism, courage, generosity and solidarity, before they get further subsumed. It first describes the state of widespread administrative failure, and thereafter focuses on community rescue and evacuation efforts. In this context it analyses the militarised priorities, and the often discriminatory and selective role played by Indian paramilitary, military forces. It describes a variety of localized relief efforts, including community kitchens, and relief camps, undertaken by civil society groups, neighbourhood committees and religious bodies. It also analyses the role played by the non resident Kashmiri diaspora, and state blockades of non state relief and humanitarian aid. It studies the role of the media, including television, print and social media in three different spheres the local, the Indian and the International.

The Conclusion summarises the important substantive findings and inferences from the report, and proposes an agenda for future inquiry, research and action

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