Beerwah: A year after a surge of water swept away two persons in the village of Hardi-Aboora in Tangmarg, one of the bodies is yet to be recovered. Abdul Rashid Gogrey and Ghulam Ahmad Bhat, say locals, were monitoring the water level in the nearby Nala Feroz Pora on September 3 last year when a sudden, massive overflow of water hit them.
But while Abdul Rashid’s body was found by locals in the river in the nearby village of Goigam three days later, Ghulam Ahmad’s body could never be recovered. And the people here blame the police and the ‘searching committee’ for that, saying the task of hunting for the body was left unfinished.
Apart from the grief that struck the whole village, Ghulam Ahmad’s family also had to face the apathy of officials who denied them Ghulam’s death certificate as his body had not been recovered. “We had to fight for three months for him to be declared dead! Officials used to say that there was no evidence of his death. My father was washed away in the flood. How could we bring his dead body before these officials?” asked his son, Shahid Ahmad Bhat.
While there wasn’t much of an effort by the search committee, locals themselves combed the river and its banks thoroughly to try and find his body, Shahid added. His uncle, Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, said he even arranged a bulldozer at his own expense to try and find his brother’s body. They also searched at, and around, the place where Abdul Rashid Gogrey’s body was recovered, but to no avail.
There was no assistance from the government to help him find his brother’s body, Ghulam Mohammad said. “We had to chase the officials in order to declare him dead. That is sheer injustice as everyone was aware about the incident. Initially, we consulted the police, they directed us to the Tehsildar and finally to the Deputy Commissioner (DC). Officials told us they would send a team to investigate whether he was washed away or not, but it took a lot of time for them to finalise that,” he said.
He said that, finally, after around three months, the police, tehsildar, naib tehsildar and other officials were sent to examine the situation, and only then was a certificate given and his brother declared dead. On his part, SHO Magam, Mohammad Akbar, told Kashmir Reader that the police tried their best to help the family to recover the body “but unfortunately we couldn’t find it”.
While the family received Rs 5 lakh as compensation in two installments, Ghulam Mohammad says it simply isn’t enough as his brother was the only earning member in the family. His, brother, he said, left behind a wife and three children and we had demanded a government job for his elder son, Shahid, to help the family financially, he added.
Most of the village was inundated and the flood badly damaged the apple cultivation, apart from the houses, roads and schools, said village sarpanch Mohammad Ayub Mir. “Many officials visited this village to check the damage caused by the floods, but nothing (by way of compensation) has happened so far,” he said.
More than 200 kanals of land were washed away, changing the geography of the area – it is almost as if it was never fertile land. Locals said the middle school in the village was severely damaged and the 150-odd students there still have no proper place to attend school. “My two children used to attend classes in this middle school, it was washed away now the school has been shifted to a nearby high school, but there is not enough space for the students to even sit,” said Mukhtar Ahmad, a local.
It is clear that last year’s flood still haunts this village, and has changed lives for the worse. “Most of the people in the village used to rely on the apple business, but since the orchards were washed away, we were left with no choice but to live in poverty,” Mukhtar said.