A blame game has begun between the Army and medical authorities in the Valley after a 26-year-old woman reportedly gave birth outside a locked health centre amid snowfall in north Kashmir's Kupwara district on Thursday.
Shehzad Ahmad Mir, a resident of Zafar Khani Sanmarg, alleged that he and his wife Asiya Jan were detained by the Army for an hour, as the area had been cordoned off and a search operation was on.
When they reached the primary health centre (PHC), they found the facility locked and the staff missing, forcing Asiya to give birth on the road amid severe snowfall and biting cold. Mir said local women assisted with the birth.
Mir said that when his wife complained of severe pain early in the morning, he, with his brother and some neighbours, carried her to the PHC at Kukroosa, nearly 5 km away.
"We had to carry her on our shoulders as the roads in the area were still covered with snow and no vehicles were plying. However, in Kuwara, Army personnel stopped us. When we reached the PHC somehow after pleading with the Army to let us go, we were horrified to find it closed," he alleged.
"The staff was missing till 1pm, forcing my wife to give birth on the road. The painful journey, interception by the Army and the lack of medical facilities has left her weak and stressed,'' he alleged.
He added that the two-day-old baby was also "not completely out of danger".
After the incident, a protest broke out in the area against the Army and medical authorities.
'Army delayed medical staff'
Speaking to mediapersons, Kupwara chief medical officer Dr Aleem claimed that the medical staff had reached late as they had been stopped by the Army. "The Army and police had stopped our paramedical team, doctors and other staff during the crackdown. They were allowed to move only after I talked to the Army officials and the station house officer concerned," he alleged.
Health director Dr Saleem Rehman told Hindustan Times that the PHC was "not a 24-hour medical facility, and the staff reached late due to conditions beyond their control. I want to say nothing more about the issue," he added.
We did not stop anyone: Army
Army authorities, however, refuted the allegations. "We looking into the matter, but so far, sources say that the woman was referred from one PHC to another, but found it locked. The Army has no role in it," said Srinagar-based defence spokesman, Lt col NN Joshi.
"Yes, there was a cordon in that area, but we did not stop anyone. The protests were staged against the PHC, not the Army," he added.
District authorities have ordered an inquiry into the incident.