For A Change, Stone Pelters Help Police To Rescue People

21 September 2014
Hakeem Irfan

Srinagar: The floods that ravaged Kashmir were a great social-leveller. Not only they bridged gap between rich and poor queuing up for food in relief camps, it also saw the stone-pelters and police on the same side. Police officers confirm to dna that these youth, whom they had booked umpteen times for throwing stones at them, were at the forefront rescuing stranded people. 'We were amazed to see some rustic youth putting their life in danger and rescuing people. One would otherwise see them on roads doing all sorts of things. Many of them even have cases registered against them,' a senior police official confided to dna, requesting anonymity. Even though state administration was no where to be seen, some official in civvies was part of rescue operations, between September 7 and September 13, when only four police stations out of the total 35 were functional in Srinagar. An official told dna that at least 6,500 to 7,000 police personnel are posted in these 35 police stations. He confessed that the department was not equipped to tackle the situation as none of the police stations or posts have rescue boats or lifesaving jackets. Besides, the police officials posted in unaffected areas did not take any initiative. No police official was visible on roads even in sensitive parts of downtown, Soura or Lal Bazar areas, which were not flooded. 'Guns and batons could not work in this situation and ironically many of the police officials do not know swimming,' he added. Amazingly, even when the Kashmir is flood prone with abundant with water channels, swimming is not in the curricula of police officials or for lower ranks. 'I was scared to see six feet water on road. But when I saw youngsters, many of them we consider as rouges, helping people, it gave me hope,' said another police official, who was part of the rescue operation in South Kashmir. In one of the incidents, a history-sheeter youth rescued a police official who was stranded for several days. 'These street smart youngsters made some suicidal attempts to save people. I think these sort of efforts by locals have resulted in comparatively lower death toll,' said another official. The official also informed that the police record files, ammunition and case properties were also damaged at the police stations affected by the floods. Another police official told dna that he saw a youngster, swimming against the tide in at least 12 feet flood water to rescue people. 'He was carrying iron nails in his pocket and he hammered them into a wooden plank of the affected house to make a temporary staircase,' he said adding, 'I followed him and the stranded locals could only get down from the second storey with the help of this temporary staircase.' Later they were removed to safe location. The government sources said the whole establishment communicated with each other on around ten wireless sets for a few days from September 7, when the crisis begun. The disaster management department and administration had gone missing. Chief minister Omer Abdullah was given a wireless set and a code to remain in touch with some of the officials as all other means of communication in the capital were not functional. However, even then the government was absent from the ground for around 10 days resulting in public resentment. One of the senior administrative official, who had managed to reach worst affected Kursu and Mehjoor Nagar areas was slapped and thrashed by locals. The police officials, who were comparatively active during the crisis, are only praising efforts of the locals and youngsters. 'I also saw a person, who was once arrested under Public Safety Act rescuing people,' said a senior official, who also exchanged greetings with this rescue ranger. One of the senior police official said he is also planning to meet some of these youngsters who showed exemplary courage during the floods and appreciate their effort. In downtown area a 20-year-old student from Nallammar Road, who often participates in stone throwing protests, rescued many patients from SMHS hospital, one of the major healthcare centers of the Valley. 'I along with my few friends went in a Shikara from Safa Kadal area and managed to get at least 50 people out in six rounds. We even tied a body floating in the hospital premises to an iron gate. Next day we went again to get the body but water level had increased and we couldn't find it,' a youth said.