Kashmir Floods: When ‘troublemakers’ turned saviors for Army

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Samboora (Pulwama): Counted among the most ardent supporters of anti-India protests that have been rocking Kashmir since 2008, youth from this village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district proved messiahs for a group of drowning Army men after their boat capsized in the flood-waters on September 5.
Amid rising level of flood water in the area, while the Army men were evacuating men and material from a camp of Army’s 50 RR located in adjoining Kakapora township, their boat capsized after hitting a poplar tree near Samboora locality at about 11:30 pm.
Just as all the 21 soldiers boarding the boat were swept away by the gushing flood waters, a group of local youth rushed to their rescue, managing to save the lives of 11 of them while two soldiers managed to swim to a nearby bund. However, they failed to evacuate the rest of the soldiers who were marooned at a distance from the bund as pitch darkness hampered their rescue effort.
“All those who trusted us and made an effort to move were brought ashore by local youth using long pipes and ropes. But the rest (8) of them kept clinging to trees and electric poles in the rice fields adjacent to a band-saw mill. We had to abort the effort at night as it was impossible to venture into the deep and gushing waters. However, we urged the Army men to hang by the trees and poles till dawn so that we can resume the rescue operation”, says Muhammad Ayub, a local youth.
“All the rescued soldiers were lodged in the residential house of a local cop where they were provided clothes, food and bedding. They were panicked and trembling, we made all efforts to make them comfortable”, he added.
As the sun rose the next morning, the villagers decided to launch a rescue effort for moving the other eight soldiers to safety. However, it required guts to take the boat to the area where the soldiers were clinging, as it is just meters away from river Jhelum. “Right then I and another youth Shabir Ahmad Wagay volunteered to take the boat for bringing the rest of them out of water. We knew it was a huge risk as we had to virtually take the boat into the ferocious river. Later two other people also sat in the boat and we managed to rescue six of the eight soldiers trapped there”, said Shabir Ahmad Dar, the owner of the band-saw mill, who is in his mid thirties.
However, the brave volunteers could not save lives of two of them who slipped into the water and drowned. “One of the deceased hailed from Dadsara Tral and the other was from outside the state. Their bodies were fished out two days later”, a local police official said.
“Some of the arms and ammunition of the soldiers had drowned into the water and they were worried about that as well”, said the locals.
Meanwhile, as flood level started receding in the area, the Army began a massive operation near the spot of the mishap to locate the lost arms and ammunition. “They kept the area under vigil for several days after the incident while red flags were used to demarcate the area. We were asked not to venture into the area till the missing items were found,” said a local resident. “Dozens of people would come to witness the combing operation as scores of soldiers would make a row and walk step-by-step to check every inch of the area which is still inundated”, he added.
Pertinently, Samboora village is considered a hotbed of resistance in Pulwama district. “Several youth in our village have been lodged in jails and slapped with PSA. They (forces) used to call us miscreants and stone-pelters. However, they couldn’t help themselves but thank us and appreciate our spirit of humanity and hospitality. We even managed a safe passage for them to another army camp in Lethpora”, he added.
“It was a humanitarian crisis and Islam teaches us to help those in distress. We could not have looked the other way while the Army men needed help”, says Shabir, the brave-heart volunteer.
“They (Army) were all praise for us and distributed sweets among the children here. They asked me if we needed any favours but taking something from them would have wasted our effort. I wouldn’t risk my life for petty rewards”, he added.

Author Author
Wahid Ahmed

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