Moti Lal Sas had to face criticism from his community for not migrating from the Valley 25 years ago. ‘But I believe I was right then and now as well after my Muslim neighbours rescued me during recent floods’
Srinagar: Moti Lal Sas, a Kashmiri Pandit, was criticized by his community members for not leaving the Valley, as most of them did, after the eruption of anti-India insurgency in 1989. But he says he stands vindicated—even after 25 years—after he was rescued by his Muslim neighbours during last month’s devastating floods, and cheated by his own kin, who lay claim on his damaged house to get the government relief.
Sas, a retired English lecturer, was trapped on the rooftop of his three-storey house at Mandir Bagh, Srinagar along with his family comprising his wife, daughter and eight-year-old grandson, after the floods hit the city on September 7.
“When the floods struck, first two storeys of our house got submerged within no time. We then shifted to the second floor, but an hour later one side of our house fell down. We barely managed to climb on a part of rooftop resting on few wooden frames,” Sas told Kashmir Reader.
Expecting the roof to collapse any time, Sas said he embraced his family members “for the last time” as there was no one around to rescue them from there.
“We stood on the rooftop for a whole day and night watching the neighbouring houses collapsing one by one,” he said.
Next morning, Sas said, he saw army helicopters hovering over them, and he took out his handkerchief and waved at them; to no avail, though.
“Few of my Muslim neighbours were also trapped inside their houses, but they were comparatively in better position than us. They were, however, worried about us and they also shouted and waved a red cloth at the helicopter, but there was no help,” said Sas.
After few hours, Sas said that his neighbours shouted at some youth, who appeared in the locality on a makeshift boat, to rescue the family.
“The youth could not have helped that time, so they went back and informed other people about our plight. I am a bit known in and around the locality as I have taught many people here. So the news had spread around immediately. And within an hour, I saw a group of youth from Ganpatyar, some of whom had been my students, coming with a boat for our rescue,” said Sas.
“It was only with the help of my Muslim neighbours and students that the word about my family spread around and I was rescued,” he said. Later, the Sas family spent a night in the nearby relief camp, and next day they were taken by a man from the Pandit community to his home, where they lived for more than a month.
“Now I have taken a rented accommodation till I reconstruct my house,” Sas said.
He said his was the only Pandit family in the locality which did not migrate from the Valley in early ‘90s. “This is my land, why should I leave it? I always enjoyed the support of my Muslim neighbours here and never faced any problem here. My relatives criticized me for staying put here, but I believe I was right then and now as well,” said Sas.
He said that after the floods, except the local MLA no one from the government visited the area. “Some of my neighbors whose houses were also damaged received relief cheques worth Rs 75,000, but I did not receive anything because the sons of my cousin, who had migrated to Jammu, have somehow entered their names in the list of affected people and have laid claim on my damaged house to get the relief cheque,” said Sas.
He said they have used his father’s name “as their own father” to claim his house, and the Revenue officials have kept his case in abeyance.
“The sons of my cousin have no right on my property and they have enjoyed every government relief and rehabilitation packages given to migrant Pandits. Still they want to lay their hands on my damaged house,” Sas added.