Asian earthquake disaster: Poorest areas of towns and villages suffer most

Eyewitness report from Bagh

I have been in Bagh, a city in Jammu and Kashmir for the last one day, arriving with a truck of aid from workers and trade unionists in Lahore. This is just one of five trucks of aid we collected in Lahore, three for Kashmir and another two for North West Frontier Province. The truck I came in had a banner on the front of it identifying it as coming from the Trade Union Rights Campaign and Socialist Movement Pakistan. Especially this last banner got a lot of interest as it entered Kashmir because it was the first truck with a socialist banner on it from Pakistan. We brought food, cloths, drinking water and blankets.

This area is completely devastated and people are still searching and fighting for the basic needs of survival. It is very difficult to say exactly how many people died here but one can easily guess that 25-30% of the population has perished in the devastation that visited this area. Basically people are asking for tents – that is their main need so that they can take shelter from the gathering winter cold. Still there many areas in the mountains where the people have got no help whatsoever. The government has claimed that they have reached almost all the areas but this is not true – there are many areas around here which have seen no government or central administration have not been seen. Now it is mainly volunteers from different parts of Kashmir with food, medicines and blankets and shelter that have been delivering aid.

The devastation we have seen so far on the mountains is far worse than anything we have seen. In some villages there is not a single house which has not been damages and in some all houses have been flattened.

In the city of Bagh there are a few buildings standing some hotels and other buildings. But one thing is clear – all the areas where the rich live in cities like Rawalakot look as though they have not been touched by the earthquake. This is because they were built carefully and with good building materials. In some of these areas not a single brick is cracked.

The government has tried to cover up this contradictions and has said that all areas were affected equally. There are still no state or government officials in this region. So there is a lot of chaos and panic. Many roads are still blocked and not accessible. While some people in the towns have food and are even storing it now those in the mountains are dying from starvation. There is no planning or strategy by the government about how to help people.

Incredibly the government is proposing to move the capital of Pakistani Occupied Kashmir to Islamabad (the federal capital of Pakistan itself) and is also planning to bring in civil service bureaucrats to run the reconstruction effort in Kashmir. This two measures alone will cause uproar. As a result of government failures the tensions around the national question had already begun to rise. But they will skyrocket if the government implements these plans and there will be a sharp rise in nationalism.

One thing is certain there is huge anger and people are very angry with the lack of action by the government. Last night when I came here in Bagh there was a demonstration of over 500 people against the government who were demanding that they wanted tents and not charity. This mood will continue to grow. As the shock of the loss of relatives recedes (and there are between 7-9 deaths in each family at least), then this anger will show itself.

TURCP members are organising a relief centre and also one which can reunite all the trade unionists and political workers in the town. In the near future our members think that there will be a sharp rise in nationalism and we think it is important to put forward a class alternative when this happens.

Therefore the donations that have already been made are very important. These funds will make the task of providing aid and the resources to campaign in the interests of the working class and the trade unions much easier in these difficult times

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