For 11 days they kept waiting for rescue or relief. None came. And before they finally escaped their flood-ravaged office at Budshah Chowk in Srinagar, the 15 women and seven men, employees of the J&K civil secretariat, were robbed while in virtual captivity in a hostile environment.
Such was the ordeal that at least one of them is undergoing psychiatric treatment. While none of the petrified staff came on record, Praveen Kapahi, an advocate at the J& high court, whose wife was among the victims, told HT: “On September 11, a group of people sailed on a boat to the building and enquired about their names; and when they came to know that they belonged to the minority community (non-Muslims in the Valley), the goons forced them to shell out money and valuables, including gold ornaments.” They were threatened with death.
Desperate, the group decided to escape immediately after, as water had receded to some extent. “My wife and other women made a rope of cloth — dupattas tied to each other — and tied it to the window latch from the fourth storey. They climbed down into waist-deep waters around 2am, and then ran and walked for nearly 15km to reach the Srinagar airport,” said Kapahi. He said that since they were without food or water for many, some of them collapsed on the way and were taken to the airport by others. After his wife finally contacted him, Kapahi arranged their tickets.
“Since all communication had snapped, I was not aware of the well-being of my wife. It was only when I received a call from an unknown number on Saturday morning that I was able to talk to my wife who narrated the whole incident. I arranged tickets for all of them and they were able to fly back to Jammu,” he said.
While Kapahi’s wife was hospitalised for two days at a Gandhi Nagar hospital, another woman employee who suffered depression had to be shifted to a psychiatric facility.
“Though the army and the NDRF are doing yeomen’s job in reaching out to people, some local miscreants are out of control. There has been total collapse of administration in Srinagar,” said an angry Kapahi.