Indian forces attempted to thwart anti-government protests to mark a year since devastating floods by arresting prominent so-called pro-independence and business leaders in Kashmir. The business community had called for a shutdown Monday to mark the anniversary of floods that killed around 300 people in Kashmir and a similar number in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
They complained that the Indian government had not kept its promise to rehabilitate victims of the flood which marooned most of the region last year, including much of the capital Srinagar.
“Police arrested many of our leaders today to prevent them protesting against the failures of the central government,” President of the Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation Mohammed Yaseen Khan has said. “The Bharatiya Janata Party government consider people of Kashmir as their enemies and they are not interested in the rehabilitation”, Khan added.
Khan’s federation has pegged cost of the floods at 1 trillion rupees ($15 billion) but the central government has given only a fraction of that, 50 billion rupees, to the regional Jammu & Kashmir government.
After the flooding, which started on Sept. 7 2014, settled down the government promised to rehabilitate the victims and rejected offers from the international community to provide assistance. Traders are angry that international agencies have not been allowed to help and that the central government (Government of India), in their eyes, has not done enough.
“When floods hit Kashmir last year, the international community came forward to help. But the Minister Narendra Modi rejected it and said the government will help people on its own,” said Showkat Chaudhary, Chairman of the Kashmir Economic Alliance, a conglomerate of trade bodies in the region. “One year has passed, but nothing happened. So the government should now allow the international community to help people in Kashmir.”
Other victims of the flood say both the state and central governments have failed to help them with rehabilitation.
Shabir Ahmad, a flood victim from North Kashmir’s Kanyari village, had a similar opinion of the administration’s response.
“Government is not bothered to address our problems post-floods. My single story house got completely damaged due to the floods last year,” he said. “None of the villagers have been paid any kind of aid by the government.”
Ahmad now lives in a makeshift house in the village and is awaiting compensation he says was promised by government officials. However, the leaders in the regional government claim that the Indian government will soon announce a significant rehabilitation package.
“The process to provide compensation is going on,” said Nayeem Akhtar, the spokesperson of the regional government, a coalition of Bharatiya Janata Party and the regional Peoples Democratic Party. “We have distributed some relief to the victims and much more will be provided.”