An army man and some of his relatives, aided by porters, trekked for eight hours carrying body of his mother on their shoulders through a treacherous mountainous route in Kupwara district of north Kashmir to bury her in their native village.
Sakina Begum (60), mother of Mohammad Abbas, died on January 29 at Pathankot, where her son, a soldier with the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment of the Indian army, was posted.
Abbas, 25, decided to lay his mother to rest in their native village near Tangdhar in the state’s Kupwara district.
The group began the journey with the body from Pathankot five days ago, but was stuck at a place called Chowkibal due to inclement weather.
The upper reaches of Kashmir valley have been experiencing heavy snowfall over the past few weeks. The group was stranded for almost four days because the road from Chowkibal to their village was buried under six feet snow.
Abbas then approached the Kupwara district administration for arranging a helicopter. But as the arrival of the helicopter was delayed, he decided to undertake the journey on foot through the avalanche-prone snow clad mountains.
Twenty soldiers died recently in avalanches and related occurrences in the higher reaches of northern Kashmir.
“We waded through snow for around eight hours and traversed a distance of 20 km. Walking was very difficult in the knee-deep snow,” Shah Nawaz, a cousin of Abbas told HT over phone.
He added that on Friday afternoon the burial was completed.
Many video clips of the journey were uploaded onto social media by a member of the group, and are being shared widely.
The clips show a team of young men carrying the body through a thick layer of snow, as the narrator explains the ordeal.
“We need help. We are walking with the body from Chowkibal towards Tangdhar. You can see the depth of snow…,” the narrator says. “Almost the entire route is covered under the accumulated snow,” he adds in the video.
Some media reports on Friday had said that although the family had requested for a helicopter, it was not provided by the army or the civil administration.
But both the civil administration and army officials said they had arranged for a helicopter for the transportation of the body, but the soldier and his relatives could not avail it because they left in a hurry.
Speaking to HT, Ghulam Mohammad Dar, deputy commissioner of Kupwara district said: “We had told the soldier that chopper was on its way. But due to some reasons, he thought it would not come and left on foot. Had he stayed back in Chowkibal for fifteen more minutes, the body could have been carried in a chopper.”
A senior army official also reiterated that the army and the civil administration provided all the help to the soldier on the route.
“All assistance for transportation of mortal remains of mother of the jawan, keeping the weather and snow conditions in mind, was provided by the unit of the jawan as well as by other army units,” an army spokesperson said.
Shah Nawaz said they had left on foot as they were panicked by the “delay in the arrival of the chopper.”
“We kept on waiting, but the chopper never came. It was delayed, as we have come to know now. They said, at first, it would come at 9am, then at 9.30am, then at 10am… but it never came. So we thought that perhaps it will not come,” he said.
“Moreover, five days had already passed so we did not want to wait further. But yes, the army’s regiment there helped us a lot and provided us with porters,” he added.