Kashmir: Not quakes but badly designed and constructed buildings kill people

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Valley of death

Kashmir is known as the heaven on earth in popular parlance. The recent earthquake in the morning of eighth October-2005 has turned this heaven into a hell and valley of death. The earthquake measured 7.6 on the Richter scale and had its epicenter in a place 100 km away from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. The north western part of Pakistan has been badly affected, but both the Pakistan occupied and the Indian occupied parts of Kashmir have been worst affected. According to the defense ministry spokesman of Pakistan “this is the worst earthquake in recent times”. Thousands of people have died, more thousands have been injured and several millions have been rendered homeless. Both the governments of Pakistan and India are not in a position to put the correct figures and the figures of casualties and homeless people are being increased with every passing day, reflecting the sheer inefficiency, inability to reach the devastated areas and the victims, and the insensitivity of both ruling cliques in both the capitalist states. The latest (up to 25th October) number of those killed in the wake of the quake is eighty thousand according to a report in The Statesman of 26th October 05. The same report says that 3.3 million people have been rendered homeless. The injured far outnumber the dead. More than 1500 persons are reported to have died in the Indian occupied part of Kashmir. More than a hundred thousand people have been rendered homeless there.

Not quakes but decadent capitalism is the real killer

The decadent capitalist system killed 20 million people in the 1st World War. It killed another 60 million in the 2nd World War. The democratic US imperialist superpower killed hundreds of thousands in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not for victory in the ongoing war but to strengthen itself strategically for the inevitable imperialist conflict of the future. Millions more have been killed and are being killed in all parts of the world in the ‘peace period’ and the period of the ‘new world order’ by all the state and non state agents of the world capitalist system. This killing and massacre is still not only going on unabated but is increasing more and more with each passing day.

But the explosion of the fury of the forces of nature are not killers in that sense. The inability of the social forces to protect people is solely responsible for the social disaster, death and devastation in the wake of the explosion of nature’s fury. Today mankind has the requisite knowledge, technology, means, materials, machines to build earthquake resistant structures. But the sole question is: who will build those structures? Are the majority of people living in the earthquake prone zones able to purchase those structures? Is a handsome profit ensured in constructing those structures? Have the capitalist governments the necessary political will and resources to shoulder that social responsibility? Is it or can it be in any case the priority for any capitalist state or government in this phase of decomposition of the world capitalist system? The very emphatic answer to these very natural questions is ‘NO’.

Was the quake totally unpredictable?

The capitalist states and governments in India and Pakistan, as those anywhere in the world, leave no stone unturned to make us believe that the earthquakes are quite unpredictable; and even if predictable, there are few means to prevent or control these quakes. It may be true that quakes are impossible to control, but is it true that they are totally unpredictable? According to a report in The Statesman of 10th October, professor B.L. Dhar of the department of geology of the University of Jammu said after this most serious quake in the last 120 years, “We knew all along that Kashmir was sitting on a high seismic zone and we had been warning about it. The entire Himalayan region is a danger area”. From 6th June, 1828 up till 20th November, 2002 this particular zone has been struck by nine earthquakes, the overwhelming majority of which had measured 6 or more on the Richter scale. So the entire region has a long history of seismic activity, as it is located in the Indian tectonic plate, which is moving north at the rate of 40mm per year.

Why no precautionary measures then?

This area is not only very earthquake prone but it is also very war prone. Since August, 1947 when India and Pakistan came into being as two ‘independent’ imperialist twins, this zone has experienced many small and big imperialist war quakes. This has rendered this zone of scenic natural beauty into a permanent war zone where bloodshed and killing either by the military forces of the two imperialist neighbors or the terrorist outfits trained, aided, equipped and financed by both has been a daily affair. Both these imperialist twins have sent to death many more people than all the earthquakes and landslides in this area since their birth in 1947. Each of these imperialist neighbors has stationed a significant part of their military machinery in this strategically very significant war zone. The ruling clique in each is obsessed with the thought of scoring a point over the other in the intensifying regional and world imperialist conflict, in spite of the latest round of the ‘peace process’. Both have already spent and are spending billions of dollars for no other but strategic gain. Both boast of being nuclear powers and are seriously engaged in boosting striking capability with newer and more powerful missiles. They are busy in procuring new and more powerful means of destruction. They have modernised and are constantly modernising further their respective military machinery. According to defense analysts, the recent military operations to dislodge the Pakistani intruders from the strategic heights in Kargil cost the Indian state about 2.5 billion dollars (Sunday Mid-day , July 4, 1999, page 10). Since April, 1984 the Indian military has spent about 4 billion dollars for control of the Siachen glacier in this war prone zone (idem). It can be easily assessed what a huge amount of monetary resources have been spent and human lives destroyed in all the open or hidden wars up till now by both the imperialist states of India and Pakistan. They have no other way. They are compelled by the material conditions of decadent world capitalism to make this war preparedness and these efforts their no 1 priority. Thus it is impossible for them to set aside sufficient money and political will for social security, building of earthquake, cyclone, tsunami or flood resistant shelters for the masses of working class and exploited people.

Rescue, relief and the most cynical imperialist interests

All the most barbarous killers of humanity are now in the role and guise of saviors. The US bourgeoisie, which wields the greatest forces of death these days, has also come to the field to try to whitewash its anti-Islam image and has been loudly vocal in heralding its humanitarian concern. Other major imperialist powers and killers are not also far behind in this diplomatic, political competition, which repeats what was crudely and shamefully exposed in the relief work in the social disaster in the wake of the tsunami in last December. But the relief in reality has been much less than what is needed to save the survivors and the injured from the expanding jaws of death through increasing cold, hunger, misery and disease. According to Jan Egeland, the Chief UN relief coordinator, “the world isn’t doing enough” (Times of India, 12.10.05 , New Delhi edition). There have been reports of the agitation of the hungry people having no food, shelter and warm clothes in both the Pakistan and India occupied parts of earthquake-affected areas. People were compelled to resort to looting in the absence of timely and adequate relief and rescue.

But the imperialist political, diplomatic maneuvering has been in full swing. The Indian government proposed to its Pakistani counterpart to put in action some of its helicopters for the rescue work in the Pakistani occupied areas. The Pakistan government replied that they would accept the offer provided the helicopters are not flown by Indian pilots, which the Indian government did not agree with. The proposal died in the imperialist, diplomatic wrangling. The result would have been the same had each actor exchanged its role with that of the other. Suspicion about each other’s real motives in the relief and rescue work is the supreme and determining factor. Everybody can guess the inner reality of the high sounding ‘peace process’. Both the governments have behaved in an absolutely inhuman manner in the criminal delay in taking the political decision to open the Line Of Control between the two imperialist neighbors in this quake and war prone zone. According to the chief UN relief coordinator in Geneva “these discussions [between India and Pakistan] are now holding up a bigger operation and they shouldn’t. I would want them to work out a compromise immediately”(idem). Very quick decisions on purely humanitarian grounds and concern could have rescued and saved many people and could have provided the affected people in both sides of the LOC with indispensable relief in time. But sordid imperialist interest and concern of each for diplomatic, political, military and strategic strengthening stood in the way and overwhelmingly outweighed the humanitarian concern.

No safety in decadent capitalism

Decadent capitalism means increasing attacks on the living and working conditions of the working class in every part of the world. This means a constant increase in imperialist open wars and hidden wars through terrorism. Thus it is ceaselessly leading the working class and the exploited masses of people towards increasing uncertainty of life and livelihood. This means also the continuous increase in the inability of all the capitalist states everywhere to invest in activities indispensable for protecting the people from the free play of the fury of the forces of nature. This is inevitable in the evolving material conditions of capitalism. Moreover the activities of the forces of nature and the consequent destructive social impact are often not confined to the artificial national boundaries. Social disaster in the wake of this earthquake cared not a straw for the artificially created and forcibly maintained LOC. Such was the case with the death and devastation in the wake of the tsunami. This has brought to the fore the indispensability of internationally coordinated and centralised efforts to minimise the destruction and maximise the safety of the common people. But it is impossible for the capitalist states in the evolving international situation. Thus all aspects of the safety of the common people are bound to be more and more uncertain in the coming period.

Destruction of capitalism is the only way out

No other class but the class conscious and internationally organised and united working class can put an end to the decadent world capitalist system - the root of all evils confronting and endangering more and more the very survival of humanity. The working class will have to pierce through the humanitarian masks and see the barbarous, murderous essence of the capitalist states and leaders without any exception. It will have to disdainfully refuse to be rallied behind any fraction or political party of capital, leftist or rightist, and the calls of nationalism and democracy, the two most powerful ideological weapons of decadent capitalism. The political parties of capital, no matter whether they are leftist or rightist, extreme or moderate, blame each other for the increasing socio- economic and political problems, but carefully hide the truth: that the decadent capitalist system is the root cause of all ills and evils. They thus try their best to rally the working class behind their counterrevolutionary political projects, to keep them confined to and stuck in the capitalist political terrain. Class struggle against the increasing attacks of capital will have to be intensified and united across all sectors and national borders. This is the only way out of the hell on earth which the capitalist system is creating.

Communist Internationalist, ICC section in India, November 2005