After days of labour and longing, the corpse of Sopore teenager, flown with the fury of Jhelum remains untraced. With hands joining to ensure decent burial, the silent struggle of the deceased will always question the conscience of the society, writes Tasavur Mushtaq
Monday, December 12, as the sun was fighting to shine over the clouds at noon, a sudden jump in Jhelum broke the silence of a winter day in Sopore. By the time, the passers-by would have intervened, a circular wave pattern threw the body once to the surface, only to engulf it. Around a fortnight has passed, and there is no clue about the corpse.
An episode is followed by an exploration. What came to the bow is a blow. A teenage girl, Ms A, has ended her life. As later revealed, the witness to this action is her family. Her elder sister, who had come to find her, spotted that she was holding the fence of the bridge, for the last time. As reported, before her sister could have acted, Ms A sprang, silently.
What occurred on December 12, was the outcome of years of fighting with fate. The purpose they say is poverty. As reported, the family of five from the Kraltang locality had their first tryst with tragedy more than a decade ago, when they lost their family head. The other male member, the only son has his battle of survival to fight. He is suffering from a critical kidney ailment, leaving his mother and two sisters to manage his health and hearth.
One man buried, another battling, the burden befell on a woeful woman and little shoulders of two daughters. Though the relatives and neighbours as revealed by the widow helped, the perpetual crisis has its costs. Managing affairs of day-to-day life modestly, besides cash and effort-intensive medication of their son drained the entire energy and borrowings of the family.
As told by the mother, Ms A was conscious of the crisis faced by the family. Being oversensitive, a throng of thoughts always kept her busy thinking about the fate of their family and possible resolution. However, the disaster did not settle.
Too young to take the toll for long, she, as per her family started to have some stress-related issues in 2021, mostly leading to migraine. The exact diagnosis is not known, but she was on medication. Her mother indicates that she had depression due to poverty.
Distraught to see no end to the financial crisis of the family and the ill health of her brother, which require a kidney transplant sooner, a ninth-grader had her limits to absorb the shocks. The only respite from life was death, so she believed.
Dead people always receive more flowers than living. Strangely, death invokes more respect, which possibly has never been the fate of life, at least in this part of the world. The same happened in Sopore.
A family who struggled silently for years to manage life, modestly, have hundreds of people out there to find their dead for days. Search operation for nearly two weeks was carried by multiple teams from dawn to dusk. Even expert, Abdul Salam Dar from Pulwama was roped in to help. Nothing happened. Dar claims the credit of having rescued 18 persons and fishing out 40 bodies from Kashmir’s various water bodies.
Though later than expected, the district administration also paid the visit. People from different areas crowded the bridge and the banks of Jhelum to talk about the incident. Some recreated the sequence, while others passed sadistic remarks.
In a world of virtual importance, the media managed to cover the post-suicidal event elaborately. Talked to everybody. In an unfortunate event, even the questions asked are unfounded. From how you feel to how she felt, it was all remorseful. But, they have their own story to sell.
It may sound sarcastic, but the essence of our existence has shifted from real to rhetoric. In an urge to be visible without actually having an impact, everybody is busy uploading videos without upholding the values. An event entails its stakeholders.
Live on social media, a few Molvis were also seen at the sight, supplicating for mercy. While others admonished the act. However, more than supplication or scolding, this requires struggle. A fight to fill the gaps. Use platforms for spreading positivity. Dedicate pulpits to talk about the issues and discuss solutions. Not to shy away from the fact that there is a requirement for revival. Revival of our attitude and actions. Sin has a source, address that.
The month is too long a reference. This incident happened a week ago, while men and machinery were busy searching for the body of a Sopore teenager. Halima, a mother of two kids and wife of incapacitated, Abdul Hamid, went to a known organisation involved in helping people in distress, voluntarily. Well supported by the requisite documents to define her claim, she was hopeful of help. However, she returned hounded and humiliated.
As later revealed, the members of the organisation at the helm were more hurtful than the crisis at home. Present along with her unwell husband to plead the case, she was left with more problems than solutions. The specifics may take longer, but the sense was scary.
The conduct of the caretakers was enough to give the idea that brief interaction was intimidation. As narrated by a person sitting next to Halima, she was asked multiple questions by a team who intended to help her. Some relevant, many irrelevant. She spoke her heart out.
The gist was gory. When a helpless couple was asked to send their children for a job, both teenagers, to earn for the family, they left with a sense of loss. Not just because help was not offered, but the way they were humiliated. The way they were made to feel bad about being poor.
Halima is not an isolated case. Reports received suggest there are cases where the organisations involved in help have been disrespectful. “They see themselves as demi-gods,” said Tahmina, who has worked with one of the organisations. Another person who understands the setup said, “They should have the heart to hear patiently and even say no gracefully.”
The essence of these non-governmental organisations is not only to help but empower the have-nots. Empowerment does not come at the cost of esteem. If the rough estimate is quoted, more than 3000 registered NGOs are operating in Jammu and Kashmir and many other unregistered, working in different fields.
Managing donations from the public and grants in aid from the government, these centres should be careful in understanding the role they are playing. The illusion of being masters should not be the concept, but, they should play the role of being mentors.
NGOs or for that matter any institution involved in help is not a business. Neither anyone there is a boss. It is a beauty of being bestowed with a blessing from the almighty for nourishing a noble cause. The financials in this case won’t matter, but feelings do. Who knows when the tables would turn?
There is another side to the coin as well. The efforts, besides ensuring basic needs to keep less privileged families well and alive should be inclusive of the fact that there is a need to allow them to access other resources, which would help them to evolve as independent individuals. But not as suggested to Halima that her children should quit education to earn for the family.
The assistance should be followed by empowerment, success with and sustainability. Poverty along with disempowerment is a crisis, which has no end in sight. Only helping to survive makes people more sceptical about their future.
But whatever the effort, empathy should never go out of manner.
Societal standards are not achieved by sermons only, it is the sacrifice at successive levels, which makes a society great. Comparisons are not convenient, always, but if compassion in our chores is missing, there is a crisis.
Life requires assistance, attention and affection. What is the fun of effort when life is decimated to pray for death?
With closing off the operation to search the body, the soul of the little girl would always question the conscience of society, which failed to save her from the fatalities of life.
The paradox of the crisis lies when before setting on a journey to end her life, she took the last tablet (medicine) to cure her disorder. Even at this time, her concern was that she could buy only one strip. The remaining tablets may lie on the table, the ailment is cured forever, leaving the larger society to think about its statements.
(Halima mentioned in the story is a real character but the name is changed.)