Through Avalanche Danger Zone, Soldier Treks With Mother’s Body

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Jammu: Early this morning, a young soldier in Kashmir began walking towards his village which lies near the Line of Control. On his shoulder, he carried his mother’s dead body, a few relatives accompanying him.

To reach home and bury his mother there, Mohammed Abbas has to make it through a pass where it has been snowing heavily for the last few days. The trek across a distance of 50 kms will take them at least 10 hours. The road they are using, a major highway, is covered with nearly six feet of snow.

Not too far away, a series of avalanches have killed nearly 20 soldiers in recent days. Power and communication lines in parts of the Kashmir Valley have been restored but many areas continue to suffer.

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Mr Abbas, 25, is posted in Pathankot; his mother, Sakeena Begum, who lived with him, died five days ago. After returning to Kashmir with her body, the jawan says he was promised that a helicopter would be arranged by the local administration to take him home to his village in Karnah.

“It is very humiliating. I’m not able to give a decent burial to my mother. The administration kept us waiting with the body but they never sent the helicopter,” he told NDTV.  ” It’s a dangerous trek. We are stomping through snow with my mother’s body. It’s an avalanche-prone zone that we are moving through.”

Officials in the district of Kupwara say they had arranged for a helicopter today. “We had arranged a chopper, but the family refused the facility because they were not sure about the weather and whether the helicopter could take off” said a senior officer who asked not to be named. He said men and machinery are being used to clear the highway that Mr Abbas is traversing.

The jawan denies the government’s claim. “We waited for four days hoping for some government help. This morning, officials in Kupwara refused to take our calls,” he said, visibly upset.

Yesterday there were protests in Karnah against the administration. “It’s not just about humiliation imposed on a son who needs to perform the last rites of his mother. In Karnah, people die because they cannot shift to hospital because the (main) road is closed in the winter,” said a resident named Irshad Ahmed.