Woman delivers baby on ‘road’ during crackdown

Srinagar: Reminiscent of the Kashmir of early ‘90s, a woman gave birth to a baby at a roadside Thursday in Kukroosa village of frontier Kupwara district, where Army had launched a cordon-and-search operation, amid sub-zero temperature.
26-year-old Ayesha Begum, of Sarmarg Chak area of Rajwar, Handwara, developed labour pain at 6 am after which her husband Shahzad Ahmad Mir and father Abdur Rashid Mir removed her to the nearest hospital.
But before they could reach the Public Health Centre (PHC) Kukroosa, a posse of soldiers from 6 Rashtriya Rifles intercepted them near Harkar Mohalla as crackdown was underway in the village, the family said.
“For over an hour, soldiers did not allow us to visit the PHC even as my wife was writhing in pain. Her screams failed to move the soldiers. It was only after the intervention of some elderly that we were allowed to proceed at 8 am, after more than one hour,” Ayesha’s husband, Shahzad told Kashmir Reader. “You’re not allowed to proceed, you stay here,” he quoted the soldiers as saying.
He said after having tough time while negotiating with soldiers and the slippery roads, he reached the health centre around 8:30 am only to find it locked. And after waiting for over three hours, he said, his wife delivered a baby girl on the snow-covered road with women folk forming circles around her.
“The local women came to our rescue. They brought blankets from their houses and spread it on the snow-covered road to make my wife’s delivery possible. Had they not been helpful, my wife and child would have died due to cold,” Shahzad said.
“Till 11:45 am, no one turned up at the health centre even after my wife delivered. Later, some agitated locals broke down the door of the centre and took my wife and new born inside. Sometime later, the doctors and the medical staff came. It was a nightmare,” he added.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Kupwara, Dr Aleem passed the buck to the Army saying that the doctors and other medical staff were prevented by soldiers from reaching the PHC.
“Army had cordoned off Kakroosa due to which we had to face inconvenience. My staff, including the BMO was not allowed to go to the hospital. Then I personally intervened and contacted Army CO and police officer after which the doctors and the staff were allowed to go through the cordoned area where hospital is located,” Dr Aleem said.
“Kakroosa is not 24/7 hospital. It opens at 10 am. When everything was closed due to cordon, how could have employees reached the hospital,” he added.
Rejecting the family version, Dr Aleem claimed that the woman delivered baby in the hospital. “Baby was delivered in the hospital,” he added.
Commanding Officer of 6 RR, Praveen Pahal was quoted by a local news agency as saying that the Army didn’t stop the patient and instead helped her to reach the hospital.
“The medical staff is blaming the Army to save their skin,” he added.
Deputy Commissioner (DC) Kupwara, Itrat Hussain told Kashmir Reader that the cordon and the fresh snowfall caused the delay to the employees from reaching the hospital. He said the family was asked by Army to take the alternate route in view of the crackdown in the area.
“It might have been possible that the woman delivered baby in the open before the medical staff could reach the hospital,” he added.