Bereft of crying pallbearers and chest-beating mourners, a Hajin man’s funeral recently received a nocturnal farewell, perhaps never seen before in the ‘thespian’ town. The deceased has now returned to haunt the quarantined town, as 11 of his family members have been declared COVID-19 positives.
Three COVID-19 deaths emerging from three different north Kashmir belts may not necessarily follow a pattern, but the absence of the signature mourning that Kashmir knew for ages, even during the crushing military offensive in its recent history, has come to define the virulent terror in these pockets today.
After Sopore and Tangmarg, Hajin witnessed the quietest funeral, bearing the faint shades of the dreaded nineties, when even a civil militia, “a law unto themselves”, raised by New Delhi to counter dissident guns in Kashmir, would leave the town’s sob stories alone to fend for themselves.
But the sob story unleashed by the novel coronavirus over the township recently has now become a defining point in Hajin’s harrowing history.
It saw the town greatly faring on security radars in recent years for its anti-establishment rising locking themselves up indoors, than flooding the streets in solidarity.
“Sending dead rebels home post-sundown was thought as an antidote to the life-sized farewells by many in security agencies,” says Abrar Mushtaq, a local in Hajin.
“These gatherings were seen as the potential recruitment grounds, and therefore the idea was to make them a quiet and quick affair.”
But nobody had inkling, not even the news-hungry Mushtaq, that the quietest funeral in the town would be of a 52-year-old quintessential man from Gund Jahangeer Hajin — the third Covid-19 casualty in Kashmir.
The elder was brought home by men in white preventive gears lately. Some masked village simpletons held torches in hands, as they lowered the dead man, unceremoniously, with hardly any crying eye around him.
Back in his home and quarantined wards, the departed man’s family shed silent tears, with a sense of dread.
Some of the members alerted by the COVID-19 updates were certain that their bodies might have already become the breeding grounds for the killer microbe.
Soon as the test report arrived, one short of a dozen family members of the deceased were declared as Covid-19 positives.
Sharing these details, Dr. Nisar, looks more of record-keeper, than an incharge Medical officer of Hajin today.
By now, the medic having the toughest assignment on hands has lost count on the grim statistics and briefs he has dispatched to his department as regular updates.
As he sits to share details, Kashmir’s senior scribe, Nazir Masoodi, sent out an alarming tweet: “29 people under administrative quarantine at Hajin, Bandipore district resorted to hunger strike demanding their release. All these people are primary contacts of COVID+ cases. #covidiots.”
Such occurrences have now made it a two-front battle for Kashmir’s frontline warriors: The virus, and its unpredictable carriers.
“Yes, 11 family members of the deceased Hajin man were tested COVID-19 positive and shifted to SKIMS, Soura,” the doctor said.
“We’re tracing more contacts.”
The deceased man, the doctor said, had no outside travel history.
His last visit was traced to Sopore Fruit Mandi, where he had gone to finalise some business deal.
He returned home on a routine fashion, before the virus left him grasping for breath.
“He might have been in contact with anyone at Sopore and when he came back home, he developed COVID-19 symptoms,” Dr. Nisar continued his grim detailing.
“He was a diabetic patient and was shifted to GMC Srinagar where he died hours after his swab was taken for tests, coming out positive later.”
Total five people attended his funeral prayers, Dr Nisar says, after the administration provided them protective kids.
Today, as Hajin houses 32 COVID-19 patients, the administration has declared 12 villages as Red Zones, including Parrey Mohalla, Gund Jehageer, and others.
As of now, Dr Nisar continues, the COVID-19 fact-finders in the town are varying the report of the deceased man being in Delhi last month.
“We couldn’t question the family members about this,” he says, “as they were in shock and later on, turned out to be positive.”
This sudden shift is now unsettling many in Hajin today.
“We never witnessed anything like this before,” a family friend of the deceased man said, over phone from the quarantined town of the legendary Prof. Hajini.
“Dead always had its mourner in Kashmir. But now, this virus is even breaking that farewell bond in the conflict-battered community.”
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.