Sitting in the corner of his room, Zubair Ahmad Mandar, 55, a nomad from Reasi is inconsolable; in just 24 hours he has shouldered coffins of his two kids.
The family has been putting up in a makeshift accommodation in the remote Brinal-Lammar forests in Devsar area of southern Kashmir’s Kulgam district.
Every year as the winter set in, the family migrated to the plains of Jammu, but this year braving freezing cold they decided to stay back.
“I do labour work but this year due to covid19 lockdown we couldn’t get much of work in the summers. So, we decided to stay to have some earning,” said Mandar.
He said that as the cold conditions grew, they thought of shifting to a nearby school building, but then it meant leaving behind the livestock, their major source of livelihood. “So we preferred to spent chilly nights in the tents in the open,” said Mandar.
On Saturday night, his 10-year-old son, Sahil Zubair who was not keeping well for some time, died due to freezing cold. The next day as he returned after laying him to rest in the snow-covered forests, the condition of his six-year-old daughter, Shazia, also deteriorated. She was shifted to a hospital but died.
Mandar somehow mustered courage and performed the last rites of her daughter and buried her next to her brother.
A medical team was rushed to the spot which did the health check-up of the family.
Mandar’s wife, Mumtaza Begum, 50, was found sick and shifted to district hospital Kulgam She was admitted and discharged after treatment.
Earlier, only three weeks back, the newborn of the couple also died. She was also buried in the same forests.
They are now survived by three children: Imran (25); Akram (20), and Shabnam (3).
“What else can be a worse tragedy than to shoulder the coffins of three of children in barely three weeks,” said Mandan with tears brimming in his eyes.
A medic termed malnutrition and anaemia as the likely causes of deaths in the family. “Yes the cold conditions might have contributed, but apparently the malnutrition and anaemic are the likely cause of illnesses and death in the family,” he said.
Another medic said there was a need to regularly send medical teams to these nomadic families for their health check-ups.
Tehsildar, Devsar Abdul Rashid said a medical team has been deputed in the village now.