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Year 2005 in Kashmir

By Mukhtar Ahmad In Srinagar
January 01, 2006 21:30 IST
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The people of Kashmir will remember the year 2005 for the wrong reasons. Natural calamities, which spelled large scale tragedy. The year began with a calamity comparably labelled as 'Snow Tsunami', which brought about large scale destruction in south Kashmir and ended with the even bigger misery brought about by a 7.6 temblor.

In living memory, Kashmir has never witnessed an earthquake of such devastating consequences as it did on October 8, 2005.

The sheer magnitude of the quake was mind boggling and everybody, including the administration in Srinagar, was dumbfounded with its impact.

As people were preparing to go about their daily routine on October 8, an unprecedented quake of 7.6 magnitude on the Richter scale struck the state.

The shock that occurred at 9.25 am made houses tumble down and buried inhabitants for a full 32 seconds.

"It appeared as if the final day was already here. Houses were simply  gobbled up by the ferociously shaking earth. Both concrete and wooden structures tumbled like a pack of cards. 1,400 persons were killed on the Indian side of the Line of Control in divided Kashmir. The devastation in Palistan-occupied-Kashmir was terrible. Nearly 80,000 humans lost their lives in PoK," said Abdul Hamid a college lecturer in Srinagar.

While the entire nation rallied behind the quake victims of Kashmir, relief and rehabilitation would take time before a modicum of normalcy could return to the lives of those locals who had lost everything they had gathered over generations in a matter of minutes.

The October 8 quake was not the first major tragedy to strike Kashmir in 2005. In February, unprecedented and late winter snowfall triggered avalanches and landslides in south Kashmir Anantnag district and scores of villagers were buried alive in their icy graves.

In Waltengunar village of south Kashmir, the entire village was buried under twin avalanches that rolled down from the mountain slopes and smashed everything in its way.

Ironically, while the administration was focusing its attention and resources on the quake victims of north Kashmir, highly disturbing reports poured in from Waltengunar area that the snow disaster victims there were yet to move into safer locations to avoid being frozen to death by the unusually harsh winter that the Valley witnessed in 2005.

While India and Pakistan moved forward in confidence building and laying bridges of friendship, the first trans-Kashmir bus began it run from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad on April 7, and was flagged off from Srinagar by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Despite peace winds blowing between India and Pakistan, militants continued their attacks throughout the state in 2005.

A day before the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus was flagged off in Srinagar, fidayeens struck at the heavily guarded Tourist Reception Centre in the summer capital where the passengers of the first bus were lodged.

The entire TRC complex was destroyed in that attack. However, the passengers of the Karwan-e-Aman bus were miraculously saved by security forces.

State Junior Minister of Education Ghulam Nabi Lone was killed by militants in the highly-secure Tulsi Bagh residential area of Srinagar on October 18.

Earlier, a powerful car bomb blast by militants in south Kashmir Pulwama town killed 15 persons and injured more than 100 others.

As per the terms of alliance agreement between the Congress and the People's Democratic Party, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed handed over the reins of power to Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Union urban development minister who was nominated by the Congress for the chief minister's post.

Azad started his innings with an anti-graft drive across the state during which the state vigilance organisation raided the houses of tainted government officials. Focusing himself on good governance and work culture, Azad moved an anti-graft legislation in the assembly, which was passed, empowering the government to attach the properties of corrupt civil servants.

He also passed another legislation targeted against political defections by elected representatives. Seen as well-meaning efforts, Azad's crusade against corruption and political brinkmanship will not be won in just days or months.

Such battles according to a political observer in Srinagar are "long drawn and complex", but Azad has managed to convey an impression that he means business.

The biggest stumbling block for Azad at present is the dismal electric power scenario in the Valley.

Unable to generate or buy enough electric power to meet local needs, the government has started a drive seizing electric heaters and water boilers.

The fallout of this official campaign is definitely going to be people's resistance and criticism against the new government.

How long Azad can afford to sustain campaigns and austerity drives with their non-populist overtures will have to be seen in the new year.

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Mukhtar Ahmad In Srinagar