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Gandbal boat capsize leaves trail of devastation

02:03 AM Apr 20, 2024 IST | GK NEWS SERVICE
gandbal boat capsize leaves trail of devastation
Photo: Aman Farooq/GK
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Ishfaq Naseem

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Srinagar, Apr 19: A few rooms comprise the modest home of boatman, Gulzar Ahmad Dar, who was buried some blocks away from his house at a graveyard that witnessed a stream of visitors on the fourth day of the boat capsize at Gandbal, which has left six people dead and three others missing.

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Gulzar’s swollen body was immediately fished out from river Jhelum that separates his Gandbal home from Batwara, where he used to ferry people in the boat pulled by ropes. The boat has now swept away to Rajbagh, while the capsize left the family devastated, snatching away the only breadwinner.

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A dirt track leads up to Gulzar’s house, where his wife, 35-year old wife, Jana Begum, is crestfallen, wailing in a dimly lit room. Gulzar is survived by four children, three girls and a boy. “I don’t know how to survive now. My world is finished,” she said.

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In the same neighbourhood, a cleric with a flowing beard asked Fayaz Ahmad Malik, a mason, not to lose hope, and told him, “There is not a leaf that moves without the will of Allah.” Fayaz’s wife and two other children died in the incident, leaving him and his one son, the only members now in the family.

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“My son mostly stays at his grandparent’s house. I am left now alone here. I don’t know how to carry on, who will do daily household chores,” he said, as his eyes welled up with tears. Fayaz said that on the day his wife drowned, she was accompanying her two sons—Tanveer Fayaz and Firdous Fayaz, both around 11 year old—in the boat to the school.

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The boat has been the only means of transport for over 400 families in the area, which has also seen a footbridge remaining incomplete for the last over six years. Stone steps lead to the river from both the Batwara and the Gandbal side, and the boat would carry people across for work, school, and even for fetching essential commodities. The area even lacks hospital facilities, and remains an isolated pocket in the city.

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Shabir Ahmad Bhat, who was in his mid-thirties, was among the passengers in the boat, travelling for masonry work at nearby Sonwar, which lies at only a few minutes of distance.

Now outside his home, an epitaph has been raised on his grave that reads his day of demise as April 16. His father, Bashir Ahmad Bhat, knelt down at the grave where the soil was wet, and broke down. “How would the family of my son survive now,” he said. Shabir was the lone breadwinner and is survived by his two children-a son and a daughter.

Three graves, one of Fayaz’s wife, another of his two children, were covered with tarpaulin as two small coffins rested in the graveyard that reminds people of the tragedy that struck this place inhabited by people-who remain a forgotten lot. Amid heavy rains, the search operation continued on the fourth consecutive day to retrieve body of three missing persons.

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