Occupational Hazard: A Report on the Jammu and Kashmir Floods of 2014

Though Militarisation affects every aspect of life, livelihood and calamities in Jammu and Kashmir – it is rendered invisible whilst demanding accountability and answers for state failures. Through specific examples, case studies, news reports and testimonies, the report highlights the structural rather than the symptomatic causes of the floods of September 2014.

Click here to read the full report.

Srinagar:  On the 11th martyrdom anniversary of human rights activist Aasia Jeelani, Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society released it report, Occupation Hazard: The Jammu and Kashmir Floods of 2014. 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. This report seeks to contextualize the floods of 2014, against the history of India’s illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir, and the Indian state’s military, governance and media strategies in asserting political sovereignty over the region. Public finances, civic infrastructure, environmental and development policy, control over natural resources, and disaster management systems in Jammu and Kashmir, are determined by Indian ‘national security’ priorities of controlling territory at any cost, in ways that are deeply inimical to the region’s ecological, political and economic needs, interests and sovereignty. OH

Warfare, armed conflict and prolonged occupations are widely considered among the most environmentally destructive activities known to humankind. Yet, the militarization of Jammu and Kashmir civic infrastructure, water bodies, lands, forests, higher ground karewas and meadows which have an enormous bearing on urban planning of its cities, and the flood and disaster vulnerability of its people has gone unnoticed by analysts. This report thus raises questions about accountability and culpability for the devastating flooding of Kashmir, from an ecological, civil and political rights perspective. It documents and celebrates the resilience and resistance of the Kashmiri people, which was particularly visible through community-based flood relief and rescue efforts, in the wake of widespread administrative failure, and delayed and discriminatory rescues.

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 Jammuand 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.