Kerala is under unprecedented crisis after massive monsoon rains hit the state compelling all the dams to open their gates resulting in one of the biggest humanitarian crisis after independence. Over 400 persons are reported killed while nearly 4 lakh people have been displaced. The final figure of those who are dead or untraced may rise once the situation becomes normal.
The Prime minister initially announced a one hundred crore rupees central support followed by another Five hundred crore grant against two thousand crore demanded by the state government.
There are numerous stories of grits and humanity during this entire crisis. The roles of fisher folks have been highly appreciated in relocating people. The people of Tamilnadu have been there in the forefront of supporting Kerala in distress which is a welcome sign. Individuals are donating. The Supreme Court judges gave Rs 25000/- each from their salaries. Many of the judges were seen supervising the relief material being sent to Kerala which showed a different side of them sending signal of unity in this hour of need. People all over the country have been not only sympathetic but supportive too. It is highly condemnable that the elements of those showing allegiance to Sangh Parivar playing their dirty tricks and confusing people.
The first thing was the self-proclaimed national media which was obsessed with Atal Bihari Vajpayee and completely ignored the Kerala’s devastating tragedy. Media was working like the spokesperson of Sangh Parivar and the Bharatiya Janata Party government to promote BJP’s electoral fortunes in North India while ignoring the devastating floods and threat thereon in Kerala. The media in India is a disgrace and their role must be condemned. First the government failure is now being aggressively diverted to the divisive Sangh agenda of blaming the victim. The first tweet came from S Gurumurthy, the Sangh’s man in Chennai who has been appointed a director at the Reserve Bank of India, suggesting that it might be the wrath of Lord Ayappa due to litigation in the Supreme court seeking entry of women in the temple. After that many other things came like Kerala’s Beef eating culture , communists, Christians and Muslims and so on.
Gurumurthy’s ranting show how the brahmanical forces are completely up against the entry of women in the Ayappa temple. Not to be left behind, many of the Sangh Parivar international trolls have started sinister campaign against sending relief material to Kerala. A video circulated on whatsapp asks people not to donate anything in Kerala since it is not the poor but only the rich are affected and they would not take your rice, cloths and any other items. They are habitual of eating costly rice and will throw away your rice in contempt. The hate-monger continue suggesting people not to donate to Chief Minister’s fund since he with his RTI found out that there was corruption in it. He is seeking funds for Seva Bharati, a charity wing of Sangh Parivar. He speak a lot but all that crap is to indulge with people deliberately, but to confuse them and then create a situation where Kerala’s left front government fail, giving ammunition and opportunity to the Sangh Parivar to strike at the right moment.
It is absolutely antinational when party politics take precedent over the national interest. Should not the government take action against the goons and criminals who are asking people not to contribute for the Kerala relief? Is it not anti national when you spread your religious hatred in the name of religion dividing people? Why is the bigot suggesting donating to particular community and not to all. India must isolate and reject such forces who are trying to create further divisions among the communities.
Let us not come to a conclusion that this incident happened because of some misfortune. If Kerala people eat beef or Ayappa is angry then why did the earthquake came to Gujarat in 2002 and why the Uttarakhand state faced the Himalayan wrath? Ayappa or for that any other God has no power to protect people. If they can’t save their enemies at least they should save their own devotees. I asked the same question when people were blaming atheists for this calamity. River Pampa is overflowing in the region of Sabarimala and authorities have advised people not to try to cross it over to go the temple.
What is most shameful and really disgusting the way Hindutva rumour brigade have been spreading their hate messages through social media. Obviously, such is the trend everywhere when people blame victims for their victimhood. So God is angry with Kerala because our effort to bring women in the temple of Ayappa or it is a beef eating state or there are a substantial number of Muslims and Christians in the state so you are telling the world that they don’t need your support or they will throw away your relief. Too low, too petty, too anti national to say the least. These are thugs and mercenaries who are using the technology and science to promote their absolutely filthy garbage of ideas. If faith is the criteria then why was there an earthquake in Gujarat or so many disasters in Uttarakhand which is called ‘Devbhumi’. Were ‘Gods’ unhappy because they were not being taken care of? Gujarat and Uttarakhand are two diverse state in cultural value system. Both may be religious but unlike Gujarat, Uttarakhandis enjoy to relish dishes both vegetarian and non-vegetarian and Uttarakhand is not a ‘dry’ state like Gujarat. Infact, in drinking habits, Uttarakhandis can only be matched by Keralites as well as north east. So, it would be better, for the goons with pen not to indulge in their hate campaign blaming the people for their faith or eating habits. It would be better to understand the reasons of these devastating disasters.
Problem in India is that rather than seriously introspecting on the things, we divert the attention and continue the same way. We never learnt any lesson from the miserable failures of the past. Climate change is a serious threat but if we go by Prime minister Narendra Modi’s definition then it is nothing but our age when our skin start behaving in a different way when we get old. Basically, the change in the tolerance level of our skin is climate change according to our prime minister. But leave aside these issues which the religious rights have been engaged in, let us introspect seriously on what might be the reason of this and will India ever learn lesson from such colossal calamities.
There are three big natural crisis that our country faced but we learnt no lessons and let us analysis them one by one. The first one, the devastating Tsunami in which thousands were killed in Tamilnadu, Pondicherry and Kerala in December 2004, the second one, the monumental disaster in Uttarakhand in the year June 2013 and now this destruction brought by the Kerala floods. We know the priestly class all across blame it on people, trying to put their Gods in the best possible way. This is the best marketing time for them as their devotees are ready to donate in the name of their God. I travelled to a huge number of places hit by Tsunami and saw how the religious rights of all varieties using the charity to spread their faith. I saw that even during those difficult times, Indians could not get away with their castes and discrimination in relief distribution against the Dalits, single women, and disabled was visible at every nook and corner. The dead bodies under the debris were being picked up by the community of manual scavengers. It was a painful to see how the destruction of Tsunami has not been able to do away with such social discriminations. The second tragedy of Uttarakhand was of a different nature because here it was very difficult for common person to reach in the remote areas and the entire services were depended on armed forces. Of course, the Hindutva group, added with their media presence made army and Hindutva as synonymous. Uttarakhand tragedy became a big handle for the Bhartiya Janata Party and Narendra Modi to critique Man Mohan Singh government and show it in poor light. Even the work being done by army was not considered as a work being done by the government so army was being praised by the media but government was being critiqued but the same media has changed its tactics in Kerala. It failed in highlighting the issue in all seriousness.
As things are settling and emergency work is getting over, the focus will be on rehabilitation which is a gigantic task. As Kerala government suggest, the losses are estimated to be over 20,000 crore rupees. The center has pledged around 600 crore rupees. A number of countries have pledged to support Kerala in this hour of need. United Arab Emirates has promised a support of Rs 700 crore while Qatar about 40 crore rupees. Even smaller countries like Maldives have promised to contribute for USD 50,000. Many other Indian states also donated substantially to the Chief Minister’s relief fund. Expatriates from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh have joined hand in various countries in the middle east and donating. Individuals are donating to the best of their capacity. It is heartwarming to receive messages of support from people all over the world but the Hindu fundamentalists have brought India to shame with their absolutely filthy remarks and cruel rumour mongering about Kerala which was an attempt to divide people. The central government has politely refused to accept foreign support promised by these countries, a policy initiated by UPA government living under false pride. Kerala need money at the moment and if Indian government can’t pay them the money they need to rebuild it, they have a right to negotiate it with others. The government’s paranoia with foreign aid is related to ‘conversion’ and that is why this entire campaign against Christians and Muslims in this critical hour too. Well, let us first talk all the people as Keralite and not their faiths including Dalits and Adivasis who are being denied dignity even at this hour.
Let us not blame the helpless gods for these tragedies. Gods are under protection these days and can’t protect themselves but if you have faith in them, none can stop you from that but for their sake too, let us find out the reasons for these disasters.
Yes, there are environmental issues. In Uttarakhand you wanted to destroy Ganga, the beautiful river and build up so many dams, suck her water to fulfill your business interest, invite the big corporates from elsewhere, allowed big resorts on river banks, digging the mountains and beautiful areas and you think nature will be silent? The same things are seen in the coastal zones. You are handing them over to corporate. Mining is rampant. Coastal Zone sand mining is killing their ecology. There are numerous reports regarding that. Kerala’s respective governments actually ignored the Madhav Gadgil Committee report about the environmental degradation and the result is what we have witnessed today. We have to again debate whether we need these heavy reservoirs or not. Should we not opt for smaller dams and other water bodies managed by the local communities?
The natural disaster that India is witnessing is because of the developmental model we adopted of late. How come so many new cities fall under flood which have never ever witnessed. All because of the big dams and when they are filled beyond their capacities and gates are open bring massive destruction. What is the use of such things which destroyed livelihood and lives of people which will take years to be rebuild. The cost of development is very high. We have snatched the livelihood of the local people particularly those belonging to the Dalits and Adivasi communities. A subcontinent like India need diverse methods to protect its people according to local environment but of late we are witnessing the homogenization of our life style. How can people in Uttarakhand and Kerala have the same life pattern or lifestyle when their climatic and geographical conditions are starkly different. How can people in Chennai or Kashmir have similar food habits and housing? The destruction today is basically because of corporatization which is bringing homogenization and this is the agenda of the religious rights too.
Religious rights need control of people in the name of one identity which is ‘ Hindu’ more than Indian and corporate need one model of ‘development’ which is destruction for so many others. Witness the huge garbage of plastic bottles over a bridge in Kerala when the water receded and it only indicated that nature return you with bigger vengeance. Fact of the matter is that all this tyrannical floods and disasters in India are a clear rejection of the ‘developmental’ model that we have mindlessly following over the years and need to seriously introspect whether we need to study the harmonious relationship that our ancestors were living with nature for so many years. It is not that disasters did not happen those times but it is also a fact that the current model can’t protect people from impending disasters which will continuously happen if we do not learn our lessons and change our life styles. Kerala cannot and should follow the Delhi pattern of life style but it is happening and everywhere. Our beautiful villages, the abode of nature, are being turned in concrete forests with plastics and bottled water replacing everything. Our green fields are now dumping grounds and big malls and wedding halls are being erected over them. Greed, business interests added with political interests fanned by the religious groups have aggravated the crisis.
A decade ago, it was Tsunami in Tamilnadu followed by the Himalayan wrath on Uttarakhand in 2013 and now the fury of rains in Kerala, India need to learn its lessons well. It is not going to stop with our ‘prayers’ and rumours. The disasters are growing in magnitude and only thing is that we can reduce the risk by seriously initiating our discussions on the developmental model and attempted homogenization, which has failed people and our environment. Kerala has our support but when we rebuild Kerala let us be cautious not be fall in the hands of corporate ‘do-gooders’ who are looking for the opportunity in this calamity like the religious rights. Kerala’s rights activists must fight and ensure the green cover in state remain intact and not allow the big companies to use this opportunity to further degrade its environment. Calamities give us time to serious think about our strategy but also give opportunities to false sympathisers who look for business in these times of crisis too. Beware of them.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at www.manukhsi.blogspot.com twitter @freetohumanity Email: email@example.com