‘Someone has to start telling the truth’: Chernobyl in Kashmir, and the nuclear flashpoint

Image: Pakistan Today.

Netflix. Amazon Prime. YouTube. Money Heist. Ertugrul. All through the Covid-19 pandemic, people have been using online streaming platforms to keep themselves occupied.

Imagine a situation where none of these is available to you, and the administration enforces a communication blockade over and above the lockdown, for months altogether.

Will your sanity survive?

I have been asked some version of the same question repeatedly by friends and strangers whom I met outside Kashmir after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A. Post the military lockdown of August 5, I started desperately looking for ways to keep myself sane.

I watched some pre-downloaded movies and drama collection on repeat for three months.

And I was obsessed with dialogues like these from the Chernobyl drama series by HBO—

“What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we will mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognise the truth at all.”

Throughout, the five episode of Chernobyl, I could relate with the dialogues, and the tragedy that unfolded at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986.

The show is based on the true events, and in this piece, I want to bring forth the relation between the Chernobyl Nuclear Tragedy and the ongoing Kashmir conflict.

Issuing a ‘spoiler alert’ in the interest of those who haven’t watched the series yet.

Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint between India, Pakistan, and China. Political analysts predict that the region could possibly trigger the nuclear war and will likely affect the whole world.

The Chernobyl disaster is past now, and we can do nothing about it. But, it is important to reflect and learn from the mistakes like those of Chernobyl, and stop the region of Jammu and Kashmir from turning into a nuclear playground.

This is what nuclear bombs would do to Islamabad, Lahore and New Delhi.

In the middle of the night, the residents of Pripyat town woke up due to the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, part of the former Soviet Union, now in Ukraine.

As fire fighters were called to douse the fire, nobody knew exactly what had happened. The bright crimson light lit the sky, and residents watched the scene, not knowing that they were inhaling radioactive ash.

An important safety test was undergoing in the reactor 4 of the power plant on 26 April, 1986.

A successful safety test, likely guarantees awards and promotion.

In the control room of the nuclear reactor 4, the orders are given by Anatoly Dyatlov, the senior officer in a rush to complete the safety test, without taking into consideration the consequences.

ALSO READ: This is what nuclear bombs would do to Islamabad, Lahore and New Delhi

Like that of Antoly Dyatlov, I want you to picture a male chauvinist officer stationed in Kashmir giving orders to shoot and kill just to get promoted to the top positions, and get rewarded for the same. Gunfights are staged and innocent civilians are labelled as militants.

To this Valery Lagasov might say, “is this really the way it all works? A uninformed, arbitrary decision that will cost who knows how many lives made by some apparatchik, some party career man?”

It is a reality, and has been happening in Kashmir since the last three decades.

Situations like these trigger the unrest in the valley, which lead to more deaths, while the perpetrators enjoy full impunity.

After the explosion, the local executive committee jumps into action, and the immediate reaction is to contain the spread of information which can cause mass-fear.

In the meeting room, one of the senior bureaucrat member rises up and presents his fervid faith in the Soviet State.

“Now, the State tells us the situation here is not dangerous. Have faith, comrades. The State tells us that it wants to prevent panic. Listen well”.

He suggests that they cut the phone lines and stop people from leaving the town.

How many times have you heard that the situation is normal in Kashmir while they enforce a blockade?

The Indian State has now adopted the strategy to block Internet, and plunge the residents into stone age. Don’t you “Listen well.” The Indian State continues to hide the truth from you.

Though working for the Soviet State, two individuals-Valery Legasov, the first deputy Director of the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy and Boris Scherbina, head of the Bureau for Fuel and Energy played an important role in dousing the fire and stopping the further damage at the power plant.

While they worked tirelessly on the ground, the Soviet State was hiding the truth from the West.

Reactor 4 had turned into a nuclear bomb. Propaganda numbers were given to the world. The Soviet Union told the world that mere 2,000 roentgen radiation level is detected on the site further hampering the operation.

In Kashmir, according to the report by JKCCS, as per the official records around 97,000 acres of land is occupied by the Army and other paramilitary forces, but the unofficial records contradict this number.

Likewise, the official estimate shows that 42,000 people were killed in the last three decades of conflict, and the local groups claim around one hundred thousand deaths.

As per The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, a civil society organisation, 8,000 individuals have been subjected to enforced disappearances in the region. The State records that 4,000 persons have disappeared.

“If you don’t see the State hiding the truth, then they must be busy distorting the facts.”

From the former Soviet Union to the present Indian State, the tactics remain the same. The Soviet Union lied to the world about the true cause of the explosion in RBMK reactor at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. In Kashmir, thousands of young people, including children, have lost their eyesight due to the pellet guns. The State claims that they have replaced the pellet guns with pepper gas, but reports show otherwise.

Women were raped by the men in uniform, and the perpetrators are shielded by the State. Even if you do “Listen well” to such claims, next time follow a Russian proverb, “Trust, but verify.”

Valery Legasov after lying at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna had to testify against the culprits of nuclear explosion including Boris Scherbina. Ulana Khomyuk, a character created in the drama said to them, “Someone has to start telling the truth.”

The AZ-5 button which triggered the explosion in RBMK reactor at Chernobyl was faulty. It needed to be rectified in all the nuclear plants across Soviet Union.

The AZ-5 button in Kashmir is yet to be pressed.

If it continues to remain faulty, it could trigger a nuclear war between India, Pakistan and China, and soon turn into a world war.

The AZ-5 button is to be rectified as per the United Nation’s resolution in 1948. Else, like in Chernobyl, the human cost of the tragedy in Kashmir can never be measured.

Whether the common people aid the State or not, they will continue to suffer.


Fouziya Tehzeeb is an International Relations graduate. She identifies herself as an ‘all rights activist’. You can reach her at [email protected]

Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position and policy of Free Press Kashmir. Feedback and counter-views are welsome at [email protected]


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