Grief and pain choked Mohammed Hanief, a 46-year-old landless farmer from a Jammu and Kashmir frontier village, who is being treated for a Pakistani bullet in his left thigh.
His three little children sobbed near his hospital bed — crying aloud intermittently for their mother who died after a burst of Pakistani machine gun fire hit her abdomen on the night of May 11.
“I am a shattered soul today. My world has turned upside down. Who will look after my three children?” Hanief whispered in agony.
Hanief’s wife Akhter Bi, 35, bled to death waiting two hours for a vehicle to ferry her to the nearest hospital from the couple’s village, Pukharni, barely 500m from the Line of Control (LoC) in the Nowshera sector.
People in villages along the LoC, the de facto border between the two nations, live under constant fear of mortar shelling and machine gun fire from the Pakistani side. Border skirmishes are common and attacks have increased over the past year.
Hanief narrated slowly how his world came crashing down on that fateful night.
“It was 11.30pm on May 11. My wife and I were asleep in the verandah and my three children were sleeping inside. Suddenly I woke up to gunshots and saw bullets pierce my wife’s abdomen,” he said.
“Before I could do anything, a bullet hit my left thigh.”
Neighbours carried them to the nearest motor road dodging intense Pakistani shelling, but there was no car to take the wounded to a hospital. Hanief got help after a two-hour wait. It was too late.
He said he was never lucky, but his luck ran out completely that night.
“My parents died long ago and my elder brother works in the UAE.”
He had taken a loan from various people to go to the UAE about a year ago. “But my hard luck didn’t leave me. I am illiterate and didn’t know that the agent gave me a fake passport. I was arrested on arrival in the UAE and deported. My money went down the drain.”
Hanief is now saddled with a debt of Rs 2.5 lakh.
“Besides, I owe a fee of Rs15,000 to my children’s school. I urge the administration to provide free education to my children and a small plot to me to eke out a living.”
The district administration has given him an interim compensation of Rs1.1 lakh. “No amount of money can compensate the loss of a human life,” Haneif said.
“I don’t know how to carry on with my life. My wounds may heal but my heart will bleed till I die. I will have to live with this bitter truth that my wife is not with me anymore.”
Hanief is originally from Mendhar in Poonch district. He settled down in Pukharni after his father-in-law gave him a house.
His daughters Naseem and Nasreen, 13 and seven, and 10-year-old son Asif had red eyes on Monday, reflecting the pain of losing their mother. They sat sobbing next to their father, who wondered what part his poor family played in the conflict over Kashmir between the two neighbouring countries.