Conflict

Photo Essay: A ravaged account from Budgam’s blasted site

At a time when the Indian army chief Bipin Rawat is talking about using drones in Kashmir, only if people “accept collateral damage”, the routine ruins that the armed forces create in the name of combat has already ravaged families in Kashmir’s conflict-torn landscape. Here, Free Press Kashmir’s photo chief Wasim Nabi captures the post-combat crisis lately created at Budgam’s Kuthpora.

It looks like an aftermath of a high-intensity earthquake…

The rubble on the lawn and the little salvageable furniture left, the half-burnt clothes and utensils – everything so perfectly and terribly broken.

And then there is the old man surrounded by a group of locals, staring at his charred house.

The disquieting description is of the latest gunfight site in Kashmir, where the memories would leave with dreadful visuals.

Sitting on the destroyed porch of his blasted house, the old man, a septuagenarian, identified as Abdul Majeed Yattoo, from Kuthpora area of Chaterigam village of central Kashmir’s Budgam district, is hardly able to recount the November 28 incident, that left him and his family shelterless in the cold winter.

That day, when the sun was yet to rise, Abdul Majeed’s house, along with his neighbour Ashiq Hussain’s house, was destroyed and reduced to rubble in a gunfight between armed forces and militants.

In that gunfight, Naveed Jatt, a top commander of Lashkar-e-Toiba was killed along with his associate.

The dreadful gunfight, as Majeed recalls it now, had shattered the calm of the wintry morning almost in a dramatic manner.

“Nobody made sense of it then, like now,” the reluctant headman says, staring at locals clearing the debris, which was his home.

By the time, the gunfight was over, Majeed was left with the remains of a destroyed house. He’s yet to make sense of the ravaging ‘action’.

“I had never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be homeless in my old age days,” Majeed says while flashing petrified looks.

The worst part of the tragedy is seeing one’s family on the road. And the very feeling is now taking a huge toll on Majeed’s mindset.

“It’s devastating to see my family roofless in my last days of life.”

After being caught in the line of fire in the valley’s escalating conflict, Majeed is now up against an uncertain future, where he fears the possible official hitches.

This anxiety is gripping him at the same time, when he stares at his lifetime earnings — now lying in ruins.

“I’ve lost everything, the would-be married granddaughter’s stock, from gold ornaments to copper utensils and clothes, nothing is left now as everything has been reduced to ashes,” Majeed says, in a fragile voice.

“This house was constructed five years back. Only thing now left is the clothes I am wearing at the moment.”

The ravaged family sitting in front of the rubble that was once their home.

The remnants.

Looking for ‘leftovers’.

Standing amidst the rubble.

Staring at a ‘smoked future’.

A wall ‘no more’.

 

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