Bandipora: A seven-year-old boy who went missing on Monday evening was found mauled to death in a nearby forest after a leopard attack in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district. Zaid Bashir, son of Bashir Ahmad, a 1st standard student from Nesbal village was returning home after Isha prayers and Quranic lessons along with his elder brother Suhaib, 10, a 4th standard student, when he went missing.
“He was walking behind his elder brother, when suddenly a leopard attacked him from behind,” Bashir Ahmad, their devastated father told Greater Kashmir.
“Suhaib could hear him scream but due to darkness could not grasp what had happened and thought it was some other kid who had scared him. Zaid had left his slippers behind,” Ahmad said, choking up with emotions. Suhaib went home and inquired if Zaid had returned but it was not the case.
“We then went around the neighbourhood and to relatives’ places but he was nowhere. Later, an announcement was made and all the villagers came out for a search,” Ahmad said.
Soon after an overnight search operation was launched with Police, CRPF, 14 RR of the Army, and sniffer dogs joining to trace Zaid, but he was not found.
During the search, villagers spotted a torn trouser and bloodstains near an orchard. “I went to check it and the moment I saw it, my heart just sank. I feared something worse had happened and by the time his body was found the next day, I had lost track of everything,” Bashir said.
On Tuesday morning, locals who had continued to search discovered his mutilated body in the forest area near the village, sending shockwaves around the district as the village descended into mourning.
The body was taken to Sumbal Hospital where Dr Manzoor confirmed that the boy had died in a wild animal attack.
“The injuries were gruesome,” he said.
The devastated villagers blamed the Wildlife Department’s negligence for the tragedy.
“We have alerted the Wildlife Department several times about the leopard sightings in and around the village, but they did not take any action,” said Rather Mehraj, village sarpanch.
Mushtaq Ahmad, another villager, said Zaid was a regular at prayers and good at studies.
Incharge of the Wildlife Department in Bandipora, Fida Hussain told Greater Kashmir that his team had been in the area since Monday and had installed temporary camps and at least seven automatic cages to trap the leopard.
“One leopard is roaming in the area,” he said.