‘Please Bring Back My Ada’: Man-Eaters Plunge Kashmir Into Mourning

Grieving grandfather. KO photos by Abid Bhat

‘We kept on shouting, waiting for there to be any call from Ada, but there were no replies in that darkness. Almost every one of us was dying for her glimpse.’

OMPORA, Budgam – When dusk descended on a downtown family living in the shade of the ‘wild’ nursery here on June 3, the only trace of their disappeared daughter were the blood trails left by three man-eaters.

The trailers moved by the innocent girl’s sudden vanishing scanned the woods till midnight. But except the doll dumped in her lawns, there was no clue, before the dark night started throwing some startling surprises.

Ada

By the new daybreak, however, the harrowing night ended when the angelic-faced daughter of the Mir family was retrieved dead from the den of leopards.

Unlike her silent departure, the arrival came with a sentimental storm when the caravan of mourners walked towards her house carrying a mauled corpse, gut-wrenching memories and a sweet child that was meant never to be heard again.

Ada was five and was playing in her kitchen garden with her brother and grandfather when three leopards barged into the partially walled side of her house on Thursday evening. She was the only one that the man-eaters targeted and wrenched her neck to its den.

Less than 12 hours later, her mauled body was found deep inside the jungle.

The tinniest coffin proved heaviest for mourners.

An hour after her funeral, the rush of mourners keeps on wailing, shrieking and calling: “Ada!”

Her father is sitting in a hellhole of grief, unaware about the surrounding mourners. He has let his mind drift in the jovial memories of his daughter while her mother has tucked herself into the fairy dresses of her baby doll.

With her parents numb with grief, the only person able to talk is one of her uncles, trying his best to avoid Ada’s sweet memories, but he’s soon cornered as a tinge of panic shot through him and with his misty eyes he responded, “Today onwards, I won’t be able hear the sweet words of our doll!”

As soon Ada was attacked and snatched from her family, a swift tracing operation was launched by her family members, neighbours and SDRF team, cops and Wildlife officials. In the midst of dark, the joint-team of rescuers were walking through the dense forest of Ompora and calling for Ada but there were no takers of the shrieks.

“We kept on shouting, waiting for there to be any call from Ada,” said Javaid Ahmed, a neighbour who was a part of the rescue team. “But there were no replies in that darkness. Almost every one of us was dying for her glimpse.”

Their disparity was such that with each unheard call, their hopes started running low and it was during this strange lightness of emotions that Ada’s father stopped and cried, waiting to hear his daughter.

As they kept on trekking, someone in the group stumbled upon an unrecognizable item.

“It was quite dark and nothing much was visible, so the leading scouts pulled their torches and illuminated the lying item, and then, something terrible and grueling pinged us all,” said Javaid, as he recalls the wrenching incident.

“It was a body-part,” he paused before an overwhelming emotion stormed him and then he continued, “We all knew who it belonged to, and how it came there.”

The littered body part and the blood trails all belonged to Ada. It was this littered part that led the rescuers to a nursery which belongs to the Wildlife Department and then it was there when another grueling incident happened.

Other blood soaked body parts of Ada were found.

“I stopped and saw her father,” said Javaid. “He apologised to her by slapping himself, tearing his clothes and shouting her name, but by then, we all knew that Ada had been hazed to death.”

The anger and frustration was such that the hunters began burning down that nursery before other members called them out and said they had found more blood trails.

And then, when each step was troubling the rescuers, Ada’s mauled body was found deep inside the forest. “I wasn’t able to look at her mauled body,” said Javaid, as tears tricked down his eyes.

Ada’s death has also driven his family and other neighbours to take on an influential system that has held sway upon the jungles of Ompora.

Despite a history of these man-eaters roaming freely in the vicinity and attacking people out of nowhere, the wildlife department, as per the residents was far too “lenient” in neutralising the five beasts that had unleashed a “reign of terror” among hundreds of families living in the densely Ompora housing Colony.

“For the last few months we had relentlessly requested the wildlife officials to take action against these leopards as they were attacking people,” Farooq Bhat, a resident of the Housing Colony said.

“But, except issuing advisories for not travelling alone in the evening, the department has done nothing. Ada was killed because of their negligence.”

However, refuting allegations of inaction, wildlife warden, Ifshan Diwan said, “These are wild animals, they don’t ask for permission to attack from the department. They can barge at any time. One month back, we had already issued advisories and even camped in the deep forests to find its traces but unfortunately these beasts were not found.”

Ada’s death has also saddened us, Ifshan continued. “We’ve already assigned five sharpshooters to neutralise these beasts as soon as possible.”

Tearful farewell.

Back in Mir House, life couldn’t have been more brutal towards Ada and her grandfather. He’s trying in his hardest ways, and always in vain, to imagine other family members who’ve died and whose death might’ve struck with him, but no grief is bigger than Ada’s death.

“Please bring back my Jigar (Ada),” he loudly requested the mourners. By the time he cried these words, grief—amazingly unknown to many till then—had taken over them.

Outside this room of mourners, a septuagenarian said, “Many think that Ada’s death is a small time of grief. It’s a poor way of thinking. We’re never finished with grief. It’s part of the fabric of living. It’s always waiting to happen. Innocent children like Ada help us to make memories and life precious; her grief will always remain an inescapable portion in our lives.”

Amid all this, the leopard attack has set off blame-game between residents and the officials of the wildlife department over sharing responsibility of addressing the growing Leopard attack in Ompora. But for Ada’s family no department can bring back their gazelle-eyed daughter anymore.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

A media graduate from LPU, Zaid Bin Shabir is a Srinagar based journalist whose works have appeared in many local and international publications.

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