Buried Under Snow
Aditi, Mumbai Mirror, Feb 17 2006
This is the story of a village...Buried Under Snow
Waltengu Nad: Around this time last year, an avalanche buried Waltengu Nad in Jammu and Kashmir under snow. It was difficult to approach the village, which is nestled amidst the lofty peaks of the Pir Panjal range, 135 kilometres from Srinagar.
Of the 350 families, 178 died. Survivors were shifted to safer locations but many are now back in their village.
One year since that day, this correspondent visited Waltengu Nad.
The nearest road head is at Vasakh Nag, a fresh water spring that finds a mention in the Neelmat Puran. All around are snow-clad mountains.
After an hour-long trek on a slippery snow path, one comes across what was once a village thriving with life. Everything changed on February 17, 2005, when an avalanche almost wiped out the village.
The avalanche came so swiftly that the victims did not even have a chance to escape. Dhoks (mud houses built on mountains) and concrete houses were reduced to rubble.
Among the survivors is Jan bi.
“My daughter used to live here with her husband and two children... They all died when the toofan of snow came. My son who was visiting see them, also died with them,” she says pointing towards the remains of her daughter’s home.
Jan bi struggles for words while recounting the events of the day.
“It was afternoon and the children were playing outside.
“Suddenly the sky became overcast and dark. It was as if a premonition of things to come. And then, it started to snow very strangely, in a way that I have never seen all my life. Within seconds, avalanches came on all sides from the mountains, flattening houses, men, women, trees... everything.”
In a nearby dhok is Rajbal Dedad. “This dhok survived and so did we. But my brother’s family was not so lucky. He died with his wife and three children. It took the Army four days to find their bodies under the snow and concrete. We then decided to not to disturb the bodies. After all, their lives were snuffed out in a second in the very same place,” he said.
“This snow would bring water, the life giver, but this very snow took everyone’s life. None here had seen this kind of nature’s fury and anger. Even for those of us who survived, life is a living misery,” Rajbal added.
Villagers who lost their kith and kin received monetary compensation and even now they get aid in the form of rations. But they complain that the administration has forgotten them.
“We have been getting some rations since last year, but there has been no other help. The government had announced that a family would be given Rs 1,50,000 for each deceased member, but so far most have received only Rs 50,000,” says Abdul.
The avalanche also hit their livelihood. A promise to rehabilitate the villagers at a safer location, five kilometres down from Waltengu Nad, has not been implemented.
“We used to cultivate maize here, but this year we were unable to do so and are penniless. A rehabilitation plan was announced but nothing much has happened since then,” Abdul says.
This prompted some of the villagers to return and brave the painful memories.
“Where do we stay and what do we do? There (at the rehabilitation site) they have been able to construct only 30 houses, that too on a hillock of mud, which has started to slip. That place too is not safe.
“We tried to find a safer place but could not. Besides, we need to have some livelihood too. What other option do we have (other than to return to our own village)?” says Rajbal, who has managed to repair his house.
Snowstorm affectees lament puppet regime's apathy
Srinagar, February 20 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, it has been a year since a huge snow avalanche hit about four villages in Waltengu Nar, in Qazigund area of Islamabad district, killing at least four-hundred people and rendering hundreds of others homeless. The survivors lament the apathy of the puppet regime because the promises made by it to rehabilitate them are yet to be fulfilled.
The inhabitants are living in absolute fear of death as the land on which they have erected temporary shelters, has started to cave in.
Jan Bibi, a villager, blasts indifference of the puppet regime towards sufferings of the affected people and tells media persons that the puppet regime has only made promises and done nothing practical for them.
Ghulam Hassan, another survivor, says, when they were hit by the snowstorm, the puppet regime did not come to their rescue and now when we are in dire need of shelter and food, it the (puppet regime) is not coming to save us from dying.
- Contributors can log in for advertising-free pages.