When bodies floated in Jhelum

The upper side known as Zaffran Colony and the lower one called Achanambal, comprising of marshy land.
When bodies floated in Jhelum
File Photo

I WAS new to the colony divided into two parts—a low lying and the upper side. The upper side known as Zaffran Colony and the lower one called Achanambal, comprising of marshy land. 

The area falls on the Srinagar outskirts close to the saffron town of Pampore in South Kashmir's Pulwama district. It was our third year in the area and we were trying to mingle with the people of the locality to make new friends as it is not easy to shift from a bustling old city locality to a place known for calm and open air.  

Amid incessant rains on September 5 last year, rumours of the flood grew louder across Kashmir. I consulted the village head, Haji Abdul Gaffar Rather to inquire as to whether flood can hit the area. He replied: "Flood has never hit this area, let's hope for the best. I heard water level is rising like anything at Pampore and if there would be a breach, water may reach here too but level won't cross our lawns."

Gaffar looked confident. We preferred not to shift our belongings and instead as a precautionary measure emptied rooms of our ground floor to first storey. On September 6 morning, rumors gripped entire Pampore that water may flow over the embankment, which had already developed cracks. It was raining like anything resulting in the increase in water level.

In the evening, another local, Muzamil Ahmed, visited our house and asked us not to take risk. "Water may reach here anytime as the river embankment at the Pampore may cave in due to serious cracks it has developed," he told me. I took his suggestion lightly and preferred to sleep in our own house along with my other family members. And when we woke up on September 7, the water had already entered our lawns and was rapidly rising towards our ground floor. We bundled some important items into few sheets and left the house without even locking the main door. And within three hours, the water filled our ground floor. We could only watch our first storey-from a safer location.

One of our neighbours living on the upper side of the colony invited us to his house and kept two rooms for us. "Treat this as your house and stay as long as you wish," said Ghulam Nabi Rather, a retired police man. But my heart was beating fast as I couldn't watch my house getting flooded in no time. Water was approaching towards my neighbour's houses. They couldn't believe and shifted their belongings whatever was possible in the hour of crisis amid cries.

At least 25 houses were submerged in my locality till 2 pm. What added more to the misery was a strong rumour that dead were floating on the river Jehlum's surface near Sempora, a point on the Srinagar-Jammu highway. All went there to watch, so did I. The scene was unbelievable. Dead men in white shrouds floating on the river. No one knew who they were. Some people who had gather there stated that it seemed somewhere a graveyard was swept away by floods. 

"Till today, it was not known exactly where those bodies had come from. The government too didn't look into the issue. We too heard that somewhere in South Kashmir, a graveyard had caved in. But that episode continues to be a mystery," says Ghulam Qadir Rather, a resident of Sempora, Zaffran Colony.

He said two bodies were seen first floating on the surface of Jhelum. "Then after some time, they were followed by five to six more," Rather says. As the people were crying over the scene, a young boy, Rafiq Ahmed, a resident of Sempora, managed a small boat to save at least a dozen people who were stuck in the second storey of their house on the other side of the river Jehlum. 

Braving the Jhelum, Ahmed first managed to rescue four of a family. In the second attempt, due to the tremendous pressure of the water, he got stuck in the trees along with his boat. 

"I thought it's my end," recalls Ahmed. "I started reciting Quranic verses. On one hand, it was my life on the line, and on the other, I couldn't bear the shrieks of those who were stranded." As Ahmed was struggling hard to pull his boat, he spotted a human hand. "It was a hand floating near a tree," he says. "I thought let me first rescue stranded and in third attempt I would pull the dead man's head. When I returned, the hand was no more visible." 

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