When devastating floods left Kashmir submerged last week, many people in the rest of the country began to ask why the region’s otherwise-active separatist groups had failed to help their neighbours. As it turns out, groups like the Hurriyat Conference claim that they have actually been carrying out large-scale relief work ‒ but are being ignored by the media.

“The day floods hit Srinagar, Hurriyat started its work by rescuing people and taking stock of the situation,” claimed Raja Mohammad Kalwal, district president of Hurriyat Conference in Srinagar and Ganderbal.

The Hurriyat Conference, led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has established a large relief camp at its headquarters in Srinagar’s Hyderpora area, Kalwal said. People from regions that were not affected by the floods have been sending relief material for victims, he said. The Hurriyat has also set up small relief camps and medical camps in other parts of Srinagar with the help of locals, said Kalwal.

“Hurriyat has been there from the very first day doing as much as they can,” said flood victim Sajad Ahmad. “They don’t have funds and whatever comes and is being distributed is given by the locals.”

However, even during this crisis, the political divisions between the various separatist groups is apparent. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M), and Yasin Malik, head of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, have organised their own relief camps in Nigeen and Maisuma. The various groups are not coordinating their efforts.

“Let them help people from their side,” said a Hurriyat volunteer. “They are doing work on their own and they are doing a good job. They are covering different areas which needs to done at the moment. We can’t reach out to everybody.”

The real heroes of the tragedy, say Hurriyat volunteers, are the ordinary people of Kashmir. “If locals wouldn’t have made makeshift rafts and rescued people at time, hundreds of people would have died,” said one volunteer.

As the flood waters abate, the separatist groups are worried about the animal carcasses lying in the streets. “The government needs to take action now,” said Kalwal. “Till this time. they have been in a deep sleep. It is time to wake up and do something about the health issues hazards which are looming on our head.”

He said that if the state administration was unable to clear the debris, Hurriyat volunteers and local people were ready to step up to the task.

Sheikh Saaliq is a freelance journalist. His Twitter handle is @Sheikh_Saaliq.