Drowned in flood, buried in ‘unknown graveyards’
When floods ravaged Kashmir earlier this month, September 11 proved no less than a doomsday for a family residing at Bemina on the Srinagar outskirts—one of the worst-hit areas.
The Bhat family is today braving the twin tragedy. They lost their house to the ravaging floods, and while they were yet to come out of this shock, the ailing head of the family, Abdur Rehman Bhat, breathed his last at a relative’s house that day. “It was a doomsday for us. We lost everything in the floods,” said Irtiza, Bhat’s daughter.
Bhat, according to his family, had desired to be buried at his ancestral graveyard, barely few hundred meters away from his residence. But fate had something else in store for the 72-year-old man who had served in a government department for 29 years to ensure a better living for his daughters. His elder daughter is a doctor and the younger a government lecturer.
“He gave us everything. But we couldn’t fulfill his last wish,” said Shaziya, Bhat’s another daughter. “My father died on September 11, not before repeating his last wish despite knowing that our house has collapsed due to floods.”
Since Bhat had to be laid to rest, very few people offered support to the family as people generally don’t allow burial of “unregistered members” in their local graveyards. A Bhat’s relative, however, somehow convinced elders in the area who finally agreed to allow his burial. He was buried at 7 pm that day. But many of his relatives and neighbors missed the funeral prayers.
“We had no option. We are grateful to the elders of the area who allowed burial of my husband in their graveyard,” said Hameeda, Bhat’s wife. “Yet my husband’s soul would be restless in the grave. He wanted to be buried next to his father at his ancestral graveyard.”
Hameeda is not alone to brave such a tragedy.
Shafiqa of Ratnipora area in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district faced a similar tragedy. The area bore the brunt of floods that razed dozens of houses to the ground. “My husband Rajab Dar tried to tie a rope with a tree that was about to fall on our house due to the ravaging flood waters. He wanted to change the direction of the tree but was washed away by strong water currents,” Shafiqa said. Dar’s body was fished out from a nearby stream after 12 hours. And then Shafiqa—mother of three daughters and a son, who are all studying in a government school—had to face another shock as graveyard in the area was submerged and it was consequently difficult to dig up the grave. However, in a sign of unity by locals, Dar was buried in another graveyard far from his village. “Even I don’t know where my husband is buried,” Shafiqa said. Her mud house has developed cracks due to the flood water and she is living in her relative’s house right now.
There has been another similar tragedy. Abdur Qadir Khan, a nomad, died while saving his cattle near Samboora area in Pulwama. He was accompanied by his wife. Khan, according to his wife, belongs to Bhaderwah area of Jammu region. “He was washed away near a stream when he tried to save two horses stuck in the flood water. It was raining heavily and I could only hear his screams,” says Jana Bi, who had erected a make-shift tent along with his other community members near Sempora, Srinagar. Ironically, Jana Bi has left the tent on September 15 and nobody knows about her whereabouts. “She left for Qazigund along with her cattle and children. We don’t know where she is,” said Gul Khan, who is living in the tent.