One is reminded about the poem after seeing the massive devastation by the century’s worst flood in Jammu and Kashmir. Incidentally, the state has been promoted as the Paradise on Earth.
Many Kashmiris believe that these floods have been a divine retribution for the sins committed by the people. God is angry with Kashmiris and they have seen just a glimpse of His wrath. It is true that over last few decades people have become very materialistic and greedy.
Finer qualities of life like honesty, integrity, truth and morality have been totally relegated to the background. The word accountability has been wiped out from the dictionary of Kashmiris. There is absolute free for all. Take any aspect of society and social life. People, especially the nouveau riche, have virtually gone over the fence. Breaking of any law relating to every aspect of life is not frowned upon at all.
In fact, it is a normal routine to flout all laws whether relating to environment, traffic or building malls, houses, hotels and so on. Speaking a blatant lie gives no compunction! It is a replica of George Orwell’s 1984! The real truth neither comes out nor is believed even if it comes out. It is usually drowned in a stream of propaganda disseminated by one and all. Especially, the propaganda indulged in by the governments on both sides of the artificial divide must be making Dr. Goebbels turn in his grave.
Some people attribute this material and moral corruption to the streams full of money flowing into Kashmir from the two neighbouring countries. One is the “Mainstream” of money from this side which has become very murky over the years and the other is the blood in the jugular vein which has darkened and thickened with the passage of time.
Incidentally, the recent flood has rendered Kashmir’s elite and the capitalist class homeless. The flood has wreaked havoc in the poshest colonies of Srinagar. It is difficult to move through these areas because of garbage strewn everywhere giving an obnoxious stench. Srinagar Municipality workers have been working round the clock and moving tons of garbage consisting of the spoiled precious belongings of the elite with their dozers and trucks. Every day one sees newer heaps of these belongings destroyed by the murky waters of the flood lying on the roads. A large number of poor people have been seen picking up some useful items from the heaps of garbage!
There is a story circulating in the downtown area of Srinagar that the areas under seven police stations which had been most of the time kept under curfew by the authorities have more or less escaped the major destruction. On the other hand the civil lines area which has seen the least turmoil and curfew has been turned upside down!
Coming down from the spiritual to the temporal level, it is a stark reality that we Kashmiris have ourselves wreaked havoc with our environment because of our unsatiated material greed. God had given us this most beautiful land with one of the best natural environments in the world. Unfortunately for us, we did not cherish and respect this wonderful gift and left no stone unturned to destroy and disfigure it in every possible way.
Dal Lake, the heart of Srinagar was squeezed and polluted from all sides. 50,000 people are living inside the Lake in permanent brick houses on artificially created islands. The Lake has been reduced to one third of its original size. Same has been the fate of the second largest sweet water lake of Asia, the Wullar Lake which incidentally has been a flood basin of Jhelum.
The River Jhelum itself has been turned into a shallow gutter! Jhelum or Vitasta or Vyeth has the same importance and significance for Kashmir as the River Don has for Russia. Jhelum has been quietly flowing for centuries but once in a while it has exhibited its anger when fiddled with. We have weakened its embankments by constructing hotels, guest houses, hospitals and even mosques at many places.
The same has been the fate of the flood spill -over channel constructed to save the city from inundation. All the wetlands and the major portions of the flood basin of Jhelum have been converted into built up colonies. There has been no dredging of the river or the flood channel for decades. The most criminal has been wanton destruction of forests resulting in massive soil erosion. All these years timber smugglers in connivance with authorities have been indiscriminately felling young trees. The famous green gold has been massacred and in many places the forests look like freshly harvested wheat fields!
Material greed compounded with total and absolute unaccountability has wrought havoc to the environment. These stark realities make one think that the flood has truly been a retribution for our wanton and senseless actions.
Like John Milton one feels like justifying the ways of God to men! There is a saying making the rounds that it has been only a warning and if we do not mend our ways, worse would follow and then Paradise may be permanently lost!