As hospitals get overwhelmed by injured and their attendants, local organisations and volunteers help feed, cloth, and manage part of the crisis. Ubeer Naqushbandi reports
A day after Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter in restive Bumdoora village of Kokernag, crowds began to swell outside Srinagar’s SMHS hospital. In first four days the hospital received more than a thousand injuries. Such a huge number of arrivals sent hospital out of gear for a few hours.
Then, society geared up and took charge of the situation, and began responding to the crisis. Among the first ones to reach SMHS hospital was Help Poor Voluntary Trust (HPVT), a Srinagar based non-profit organisation. “As injured started reaching here, we immediately geared forty volunteers from different parts of the city,” said Farooq Ahmed Khan, 50, president of HPVT.
After Farooq realised the quantum of crisis he got eight of HPVT’s ambulances to SMHS. “There were no vehicles available to ferry patients from different parts of valley.”
Within no time, as ambulances started to land in SMHS hospital, the challenge was to keep the place stocked with essentials. “Every volunteer was asked to donate blood so that the bank is well stocked,” said Farooq.
All the time HPVT was working in coordination with the hospital authorities. “So far we have spent some Rs 3 lakh,” informs Farooq.
Outside SMHS’ emergency unit, Athrout – a local NGO – has setup its base camp to reach out to major hospitals in Srinagar city. Besides free medicine, flood and other essentials, the NGO arranges clothes for injured who arrive at SMHS in blood soaked clothes. Athrout has also pressed two of their ambulances in service. “So far we have spent Rs 1.50,” said Bashir Nadvi, president Athrout.
Nadvi claims they have assisted a number of patients monetarily. “Most of the attendants left in hurry without cash,” said Nadvi.
With so much of pain and fatalities happening around them, staying calm for volunteers becomes challenging at times. The case of Manzoor Ahmad, 60, a resident of Islamabad, who was hit by a bullet in his head, has shattered everybody including Athrout volunteers. “He is battling for his life in ICU,” said Nadvi. “His condition is critical.”
As there is no traffic plying on roads, ambulances are only modes of transportation for patients to reach home.
To announce which ambulance is heading which way, Athrout has installed a public announcement system outside hospital’s emergency gate. “Besides we announce breakfast, lunch and dinner timings through loudspeakers,” said Nadvi.
Since Saturday, a day after Burhan’s killing, hundreds of volunteers have rushed to SMHS hospital to help in their own way. One such volunteer is Ishrar Aslam, a young boy, who came all the way from Jammu “to help his brethren in Kashmir”.
Disturbed by the “war-like crisis” in SHMS hospital a group of youngsters from nearby Jamallata locality raised money amongst themselves to help the injured. “We purchased mineral water, food items, and other essential out of that money,” said Bilal, quickly appointed leader of the group.
Another such group of volunteers is from Batamaloo area of Srinagar. Headed by a young boy named Saleem, the group has donated 24 pints of blood.
At meal times volunteers of Tawheed Forum get activated inside the hospital. Carrying packed meals in baskets, and cardboard cartons, they visit every single bed to hand-over the same. “More than five thousand cups get consumed at one time,” says Sheikh Muneer Ahmed of Tawheed Forum.
After a while volunteers of Darul Khair, run by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, arrive at the scene and start distributing medicine, food and juice packets. They have also kept two ambulances at the hospital for ferrying the injured. “As government has gone into hiding it is our job to help the people,” said Umar Iqbal, a volunteer with Darul Khair. “We want to show them (govt) that we can survive on our own.”
Interestingly areas around SMHS hospital have responded wholeheartedly to the crisis call. A number of Mohalla committees are supplying truckloads of eatables, clothing and other essentials.
There are a few socio-religious organisations like Jamait-e-Ahli Hadees and Jamaat-e-Islami helping with the voluntary assistance. These volunteers make sure that injured referred from across the valley are shifted to emergency ward within no time of reaching SMHS.
As post-Eid was supposed to be the marriage season in Kashmir, which many say is now turned into mourning, a number of celebrations were cancelled in eve of crisis. In last one week, almost two dozen families have donated their stocks, meant for marriage feasts, to the make-shift kitchens installed inside the hospital. “My daughter was supposed to get married on July 13, which got cancelled,” said Mohammad Ashraf Mir, a local, who arrived in SMHS, with a load carrier full of supplies. “In such tough times we must stand by each other. Helping other is more important than celebrating my daughter’s marriage.”
Volunteers, who are camping inside the hospital since July 8, accuse police of hampering the movement of supplies to the hospital. “On Tuesday, a lorry full of eatables and clothings was detained by police station Karanagar,” said one volunteer. “Since then driver Mohammad Ashraf is behind the bars.”