Kupwara’s Killer Well and A Wedding Tragedy

Four men from a godforsaken northern Kashmir hamlet—where tap water is still a distant dream—went to clean a disused well for a wedding preparation. They returned dead and the merrymaking moment at once became a mass-mourning.

ZAHIDA was looking forward to be swarmed by her happy kin who now take turns to console her.

But as the thirty-year-old soon-to-be bride remains inconsolable, a horde of villagers walk in with long faces, only to make her home a packed house of mourners.

Just six days before her wedding, the Kupwara girl lost her brothers to a killer well.

“In Kashmir, happy occasions are known to become mourning events,” said Zahida’s cousin. “But losing your affable brothers just days before your dream day in life is worse than thousand deaths!”

The tragic incident took place on July 2, when Zahida heard a shrilling noise outside her home. Soon as her dead siblings were brought amid sobs and shrieks, she saw her lifelong cherished moment collapsing in a jiffy.

The dead brothers had gone to make wedding preparations for their sister.

The incident occurred in the Dard Hari Sangdan area of Kupwara’s Kralpora area. The four villagers including Zahida’s two siblings had left home to clean a disused well.

Among them, Mohammad Altaf Sheikh first went inside the well. While cleaning, he had suddenly collapsed. The other three—Mumtaz Ahmad, Altaf Khan and Showkat Khan—were working outside. They soon went inside, one by one, on a rescue mission. None of them came out alive.

By the time villagers learned about the tragic event, lot of time had already elapsed. Amid hue and cry, it took hectic efforts from locals, police and other allied departments to retrieve the trapped bodies from the well. They were evacuated to a nearby health facility.

“The deceased were brought dead to the hospital,” Dr. Kounsar Amin, Chief Medical Officer Kupwara, told Kashmir Observer. “They apparently died due to suffocation. A post-mortem report is still awaited.”

As per the villagers, some “inert gas” leaked by the weathered walls of the well choked the four men to death. While only an investigation will clear the picture, the loss has already numbed the hamlet.

Among the deceased, Altaf Khan and Showkat Khan, residents of Dard Hari Sangdan, were preparing for the marriage of their sister for months.

“Everything was going well, but we had water scarcity in the village,” Nisar Khan, brother of the deceased siblings, told Kashmir Observer. “One has to travel 3 kilometres to fetch water here.”

The family had decided to store the drinking water in the well for their guests. Zahida’s two siblings and cousins were given the job to clean it.

“None of us is ready to believe that we’ve lost them,” Nisar said. “I’m still unable to look at the face of my to-be-bride sister!”

The village is over 24 kilometres away from the main town, Kupwara. According to locals, the godforsaken area is without basic facilities.

“There’s no water, electricity and a proper road,” Abdul Rashid, Sarpanch of the Sangdan village, told Kashmir Observer.

Backed by Peoples Conference, Sarpanch Rashid said they’ve got the proposal of a water supply scheme years ago, but the authorities are delaying the tenders since last one year.

“Had there been a proper water supply in place,” Rashid said, “the unfortunate incident would’ve been avoided.”

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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