They had advertised, distributed pamphlets and declared prize money in the search of their dear ones. Now, they have packed their bags once again for the Char Dham yatra, which begins on April 21, hoping against hope to find their relatives, who went missing in the deluge during the 2013 edition of the pilgrimage.
Shiv Kumar Upadhyay, an advocate from Rajasthan, hasn’t lost hope. He is searching for his parents along with nine other family members who went missing during the disaster. He last talked to his parents — Geeta Devi (60) and Dr Badrilal Upadhyay (62) — on June 17 2013, a day after the disaster struck. The couple were near Gaurikund, about 18 km from Kedarnath, during the call.
In the last two years, he has received three calls from various parts of Uttarakhand from people who claim to have seen his parents.
“I know they are alive. I have distributed pamphlets in Haridwar and Rishikesh and visited Rudraprayag. This year, too, I will visit Kedarnath shrine in search of my missing parents. I will continue to visit Uttarakhand until I meet my parents,” Shiv told Hindustan Times.
Shiv was also part of a 28-member group, including his relatives. Four relatives died on the spot. Thirteen people of the family managed to return home safely while 11 are still missing. Shiv has also declared prize money for informers who will help him in meeting his parents.
The 2013 disaster killed 4,021 people, and 1,497 were reported missing in Kedarnath.
Rahul Singh, a banker and resident of Amreli district in Gujarat, too, plans to visit Kedarnath this season. He has also announced prize money for information on his missing parents.
“My parents always wanted to visit Char Dhama and it was eventually in 2013 that they got this opportunity. They have been missing from Kedarnath since June 16. I will revisit the shrine this year too, in search of them,” said Singh.
Their hopes are fanned by reports about people chancing on missing relatives.
In 2014, a woman from Rajasthan who went missing during the disaster was found in Uttarkashi, according to reports. Her husband later took her away. In March this year, a 46-year-old man of Chamoli district who was missing was found roaming the streets of Rudraprayag . One of his legs was fractured and was mentally unstable. But, state government has not yet listed these persons as ‘found’.
“We have no information whether people are found post disaster or not,” said Piyush Rautela, the executive director of Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre.
But people such as Himanshu Shrivastava, a businessman in Lucknow, are hoping against hope.
His wife, two sons, parents and uncle’s family of six have gone missing. In the past two years, he has visited Rishikesh and Haridwar with prayers on lips. He says he will continue to do so.