Kanyari Bala is a village situated on the banks of river Jhelum in Hajin area of Bandipora district. This north Kashmir village is like a monument of the devastating floods that struck Kashmir in September this year. Penned by Sofi Ahsan and captured by Shams Ul Haq Qari, this photo story reflects flood decimated village
There are no roads but only muddy and waterlogged lanes connecting the area with the outside world. Most houses have either fallen to ground or are cracked enough to be not livable. Every face here has a story to tell about the tragedy that has left a trail of devastation in their lives.
Zooni Begum had a home where she and her six children lived a happy life but that was before the deluge jolted Kashmir valley some two months back. Today she sees herself as homeless “as a beggar on the street”. Water has damaged the walls of her mud-brick house and caused vents in the flooring. “Rain falls through the roof and water seeps out of the flooring. Nights are sleepless and frightening,” she said with a wailing tone in her voice.
The affected families are finding it hard to reconstruct their houses with the compensation provided by the government. “I am a daily wager. What will I do with the 14000 rupees compensation provided by government? Should I reconstruct the house or feed my family,” Zooni’s son Nazir Ahmad who works in the Sopore Municipal Committee said.
While many residents in the village complained about the meager amount of compensation paid by the government, some like Muhammad Sultan Sumji are still to receive any benefit. Sumji had a two-room house before the floods but today lives under a tent along with his wife and three toddlers. “Be it rain or wind, we sit and sleep here. There has been no help from any quarter,” Sumji’s wife told Kashmir Life.
Most villagers in the area are fishermen and only four to five are employed by the State. The ravaging September floods have left the inhabitants of Kanyari grounded with many finding it hard to make the ends meet. The trauma that the villagers have gone through is palpable in their words. “I have never seen such devastation before. Even an enemy should not be made to go through such a calamity,” a woman said while pointing towards her razed cattle shed.
Abdul Rashid, also a fisherman, is the lone breadwinner in his family of 11 members that includes four small children. He is one among of the few villagers who were paid a sum of 75000 rupees by government as compensation. “My house was totally damaged during the floods. I have lost everything and this amount is not enough to again raise a house,” Rashid said.
Rashid’s mother Noora has been restless since the floods snatched her house. “Nothing has remained now. Even the clothes we are wearing are of relatives. We have run into debts and there is no help visible,” She said with tears in her eyes.
Recounting the horrors of the floods that hit the village on 07 September this year, Farooq Ahmad a teacher said that they lived on the nearby Sheikh bund for days under tents. “No relief from administration reached us during those days. We ran saving our lives in our own boats and reached the bund,” Ahmad said.
However Ahmad said people from nearby areas like Sopore and Naidkhai reached here with the relief material. “Helicopters dropped some milk and rice packets but most of those got wasted in the floodwater,” he narrated.
With the winter season imminent in Kashmir and no proper place to dwell, the villagers are already having nightmares of the coming bone-chilling nights. “There is no way we can live in our houses during cold. Our children will die of the cold during snowy days,” Ghulam Ahmad, an elderly in the village said.
Nazir Ahmad Kuloo, the panch of Kanyari village said only five houses were declared fully damaged and paid 75000 rupees as compensation. “The rest of the households were given a paltry amount of relief which is being spent on building the tin sheds since the houses are no longer habitable,” Kuloo said.
70-80 percent houses were damaged in the village comprised of 107 houses during the floods, according to the village panch. While 40 to 45 families have already shifted to a nearby ground, some are seen repairing their damaged houses.
The helplessness of the villagers can be gauged from the fact that no higher official other than Pathwari has entered the village. “The tehsildar only came to distribute the checks and did not enter the village to witness the ground state,” Kuloo said.
Kanyari is a village of irony. With no water in tapes, the residents have no other option than make use of the same floodwater for drinking and cooking purposes that ravaged their homes in September.“The vehicles of Public Health Engineering (PHE) department came with drinking water for two to three days but we never saw them again,” Kulsooma, a resident of the village said.
There is no healthcare facility available in the village. In case of emergencies, the residents have to make use of boats to save their lives. The hopelessness of the villagers can be summed up in a single statement said by a kid in the village – “even God seems to have forgotten us.”
With Kashmir valley all set for elections at end of this month, this village seems to have slipped into obscurity for the administration. The electoral mood among the people seems to be dismal as residents build their houses again. “Had the state government done anything for us, we would have flocked to polling centers. No one is ready for voting here,” the village Panch said.