Dr. Sameer Kaul (Greater Kashmir)
This evening while watching the evening news on national television, I was rudely shocked by the reportage of the 3867th infant death at Srinagar's only- and most infamous - children’s hospital, in the last four years. This is not my PDP avatar at work. These are stark figures uploaded by a governmental agency on the Net. The horrible memory of the spate of infant deaths that hit the headlines a couple of months back has barely receded in the subconscious mind and yet, shameful medical and administrative negligence has reared its ugly head and is staring us in the face yet again.
Is the Kashmiri nation on auto-destruct mode? After having seen more than a hundred young men killed on the streets of Srinagar in 2010, have we now sworn to murder our newborns?
My late grandmother Radhai's words ring in my ears. Pralay will come, she would morosely remind me as a child, when Kashmiris draw the blood of Kashmiris. She was no Nostradamus. But I ask: are we passing through those ill-fated times?
Of course I am aware that civil society groups comprising educated citizens like lawyers, doctors, teachers, bankers, entrepreneurs, engineers, civil servants are, by and large, responsive to social aberrations in Kashmir. But they have either decided to henceforth respond only to political and religious events, or, their sensibilities, too, have suffered so grievously over two decades of conflict that they are stunned into woeful silence. Am I to now re-classify them as mere restaurant-seated, chattering classes, for their criminal silence in the wake of this infant killing spree at GB Pant hospital a la Maut Manzil? It saddens me immensely.
The democratic right of civic protest has long been snubbed out of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh societies by the unfortunate, hyper-security-tinted-viewing -glass of the insecure ruling classes. National security is a convenient garb to crush dissent.
Since Nilmatpurana, Kashmiri history bears testimony to the sad fact that an overwhelming majority of our rulers has been self-absorbed, tyrannical and oppressive. Scan the Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, Sikh or Dogra periods for unbiased evidence of good governance and just rule. Only a handful, like Nila, Lalitaditya and Badshah will qualify. In this coveted line-up, I am willing to concede a place to Sheikh Abdullah but: to the persona of this contemporary political leader before his first incarceration. Later and towards the second half of his innings, he was to succumb to the seduction of fatalistic expediency.
There were plenty of early examples of selfless medical leadership. In mission hospitals and against all odds, the likes of Drs Arthur Neve and Edmund Downes slogged to provide much needed succor to our ancestors. In this respect, we have suffered a tragic reversal of fortunes. It is said that the future of a nation depends on the health of its constituents. Given that medical affairs are today in the hands of politicians who are either incapable or unwilling or both, today’s situation is a travesty of that old adage.
In the wake of the terrible human tragedy that has struck the most vulnerable among us, action at national and state level has comprised of a few highly-publicized, hurriedly-conducted ministerial visits. At media conferences, a slew of promises were made for a healthy tomorrow, one which will never come.
The final insult to our sensibilities was delivered when the Chief Minister of our state, in his role as chief administrative officer, brazenly accepted a trophy for excellence in medical care delivery at a conclave held recently by a prominent national magazine in New Delhi. What supreme irony