Days after losing her daughter to a dead shell, a mother succumbed to her injuries leaving behind another shell-shattered dream and family in Kashmir.
SARA Begum, a 49-year old woman from the Sherkoot village of north Kashmir’s Handwara area, had always dreamt of watching her daughter walking down the aisle in a bride’s dress but a dead-shell explosion killed Sara and her 19-year-old daughter Gulnaz Bano way before they could’ve lived her dream.
On May 27, the mother-daughter duo was gathered around a bag when a dead-shell exploded and tore through the roof of their house.
“When we heard the blast, we ran for our lives,” said Junaid Gulzar, Sara’s close-door neighbour. “After the hue and cry had fizzled a bit, we rushed to the house and found that the mother and daughter were heavily injured.”
The duo were collecting collard greens and other wild vegetables from a nearby forest of Sherkoot Taratpora, on Wednesday, when they came across a dead-shell.
“Apparently, the duo had no idea about the rusted metallic item, so along with wild vegetables, they had brought a dead-shell to their house,” SP Handwara Sandeep Gupta told Kashmir Observer. “And on Thursday, the explosion took place and invoked grievous injuries to both.”
The duo was immediately ferried to the nearby sub-district Hospital of Handwara where Gulnaz Bano succumbed to her injuries while her mother was later shifted to Srinagar’s super-speciality hospital for a specialized surgery of her injuries.
“The lady was brought in a critical condition as the shell splinters had severely injured her upper-body, mainly damaging the chest, head and her face,” a doctor who had treated the patient told Kashmir Observer.
“She underwent a 10-point massive blood transfusion for 24 hours, as she had already lost a huge amount of blood to the explosion.”
On the morning of May 29, the news once again rattled the Sherkoot village.
“The lady identified as Sara Begum w/o Ghulam Ahmed Rather R/O Sherkoot, Handwara passed away at 05:00 am today,” an official from the SP Handwara office told Kashmir Observer.
At her home, Sara’s husband, a mechanic by profession, is inconsolable, unable to accept the tragedy that has maimed his fate.
“He’s unable to come to terms with their death,” Bilal Ahmed, close relative of the family said by telephone.
“Her other six children have taken their mother’s and sibling’s clothes since morning and are not willing to part with them. The eldest son, who is in the army, wants to know when his mother will return home.”
Even though there were times when her family faced financial problems, the shell-consumed Sara had always put up a brave face and carried a jovial smile with herself, while her daughter was always respected for her compassion and brilliance.
“This isn’t just one family’s loss but an irreplaceable damage to every single person of our village,” Bilal said.
“Even though no relief can bring them back now, the government should provide assistance to the family living in penury,” Bilal added with a sense of grief.
If there’re dead-shells in the forests frequented by villagers for firewood, the wailing relative asked, then why do the army and police leave them unchecked?
“If these forests would’ve been marked as danger zones, maybe, our loved ones would have been alive,” Bilal said.
In a press release on Wednesday, the police said that a case under relevant sections of the law has been registered in the concerned police station and an investigation has also been initiated.
Kashmir has been enduring the deadly frontier flare-ups and explosive situations for years now. Since the fortification of Line of Control, the Indo-Pak belligerence has worsened, resulting in a huge number of casualties on both sides of the fence.
Before the LoC armistice of 2021, both the sides have been vehemently accusing each other of breaking the 2003 ceasefire agreement.
But it is not just the falling shells that have killed innocent civilians in the frontier areas, the littered shells have also proved to be lethal and have claimed many lives in these extremely sensitive areas.
Till 2015, around 187 casualties of the littered shell explosion have been reported in J&K, out of which 93 have been minors.
After becoming the latest victims of the littered shell, Sara and her daughter are now buried in a small graveyard on an elevated ground just near their home.
“Maybe,” lamented their relative, Bilal, “Sara was never meant to see her daughter as a bride.”
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