Kashmir flood brings more misery to conflict-hit widows, orphans

Srinagar, September 24, 2014: The devastating flood has taken serious toll on the widow and orphan families of Kashmir valley who already living in pain and agony in the decades old Kashmir conflict.  
Saleema, a widow who has a small house at Achnambal, Pantha Chowk in Srinagar said “We have no food to cook”. She lost her husband to Kashmir conflict in 1998 and since then has been working hard to support her two daughters and a son.
“Conflict took away the life of my husband but we were managing food for two times and clothes. But today the situation is more difficult for us as we have no food to cook and no clothes to wear,” she told media men in Srinagar.
Living near a mighty Chinar, water entered into her house late on September 7 and slowly rose up to first floor. “I hadn’t imagined that water level would rise up to first floor of my house. Everybody told me that water won’t reach my lawns even. This is what prevented me from shifting things to safer place,” she says as tears roll down her cheeks.
Saleema’s husband was a tailor and she has been fighting the odds of life like a brave woman. “I managed food and clothes for my children after my husband’s death and had never thought that flood would take away everything,” she says outside her damaged house. The main wall of Saleema’s house has collapsed while rest of the walls have developed big cracks, making it unliveable. “Where should I go now? Who to ask for help, I know no one will help,” she says amid cries.
While the local women were trying to console her, Saleema’s son got a call from the owner of the shop where he works as a salesman. “Don’t come to the shop for now,” he was told, which bring another shocker for Saleema. Her son Jameel Ahmed had been working as a salesman at a shop near clock-tower in Lal Chowk Srinagar where flood water is not receding even after two weeks. 
Saleema is not alone in this misfortune. According to Imams of Pampore area, there are many widows and orphans who are facing tough times as majority of them have nothing to eat except some relief comprising biscuits and a few kilograms of rice. “We should help them and they should be our first priority,” an Imam told locals.
Poor relief distribution by the authorities has added to the woes of widows and orphans. “I received five kgs of rice and two kgs of atta last week. Since then, no relief came here,” says Shareefa, whose husband was killed in a shoot out of Indian troops in 2001. Shareefa lives with two daughters and two sons at Befuna village of Pampore that bore the brunt of floods. There is hardly any house that is safe to live in again in the area.
Javaid Ahmed, a resident of the area said the flood water came from Pampore after river Jehlum overflowed its banks. “Look at our house, only roof-top is visible. Same is the case with other houses. Those who seem to be intact have big cracks inside.”
In Befuna village, there are number of widows including those whose husbands have died during the ongoing military violence. “No major relief reached here. It is the local village committee that is taking care of entire village population these days. But orphans and widows are suffering immensely as they have no money. Whatever crop they had in their fields has got completely damaged,” said Gulzar Ahmed, a local resident.
Young Zubair has lost both his parents. His father was a liberation activist and mother died due to heart attack, leaving behind two daughters and a son. Looking at the local langar (community kitchen) arranged by elders of the area in Samboora area of Pampore from the window of his mud house, he says. “There is no rice in my house. We are being provided food by the village committee, no relief reached here.”
Zubair is a mechanic at a garage in Sonwar in Srinagar and is paid Rs 3000 a month. He is living with his uncle for past six years along with his two younger sisters. “Flood has damaged my house badly. I wanted to ensure proper education to my sisters. I haven’t gone to garage for past 12 days. Garage owner won’t pay me as I did no work,” says 16 year old Zubair.
A senior Kashmiri Muhammad Shaban says it is high time when Kashmir and Kashmiri people must change for good. “We must introspect, otherwise God will punish this nation for not taking care of widows and orphans,” he says and appealed all charity organisations to give first priority to widows, orphans and other destitute. (source ABID BASHIR Srinagar GK)