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When the quake struck, the LoC stood between life and death

By Anil Bhatt in Teetwal
October 22, 2005 12:00 IST
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Din Mohammad watched helplessly as his brother, Mand Gujjar, used his bare hands to dig underneath the rubble and retrieve bodies of his wife, two sons and a daughter just a few yards away. Had 67-year-old Din been able to rush, he feels he could have saved the dead.

But the LoC stood between life and death.

Din could only listen to frantic cries for help from 50-year-old Gujjar and see how the distance of an outstretched hand proved an unbridgeable chasm on October 8, when the monster quake flattened the sleepy Chilyardi hamlet in Neelam valley of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

All this because of the Line of Control along the Kishan Ganga river, which winds its way through the mountains dividing Kashmir.

Din Mohmmad, in this village on the Indian side of the LoC, is guilty for being unable to respond to frantic calls for help from his brother on the holy Ramadan day.

"I am a guilty man today as I failed to come to rescue of my brother's repeated calls," an inconsolable Din told a PTI correpondent. "Although we rushed to the river bank with ropes and shovels to undertake rescue operations across the LoC, despite being hit on this side, we failed to cross a few yards of river length.

"We curse our stars. We are desperate to help the people of Chilyardi, which nature had virtually bulldozed and flattened on October 8. But we stood on this side of the river watching them with tearful eyes", said people of this area.

"Had we gone across, several people could have been saved, including some members of my brother's family. And today, we feel guilty," Din and other people said.

"In this PoK village, survivors are battling the worst-ever conditions in post-quake period and are yet to get any relief or tents from Pakistan authorities, a week after the quake," Din said.

Mano Gujjar lost his wife, Ailifa, sons Nawaz and Kurom, and a daughter, Hoora, along with livestock in the quake. Din, too, has lost his daughter, Arifa, in Teetwal, a village opposite his brother's in PoK.

Spending nights under open skies and keep life going through sops, Din's brother, along with over 39 other survivors are left with nothing. They have no tents or ration, as the road to Muzaffarabad town from Neelam valley remains cut off.

"My heart bleeds when I go to the banks of the Krishna Ganga at night to see my brother and his kids sleeping out in the cold," Din said, adding "We have 100 percent tents, food and warm clothing now but they have nothing."

Like him, Nishad Aziz curses his stars for fail to help his uncle Nawab Din in Badian village, where 41 people were killed and village itself collapsed into a mountain of debris.

Nishad and Din, who have also performed rituals connected with deaths of their kins across LoC, made a fervent appeal to Roads and Buildings Minister G A Mir, who trekked 19 kms to reach Teetwal.

"I will take up the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who have sent me here to take care of you," Mir told them.

There are over 10,000-odd families along the frontlines of Indo-Pak border on both sides, who have very close relations across the LoC.

"It is a human tragedy and needs a humanitarian solution. We wish these divided families could help each other," Mir said promising the people to find a way out to this problem.

As per rough estimates, 10,792 quake-hit families on the Indian side living in Poonch, Uri, Tangdhar and Teetwal have close relatives across the border line in PoK.

"We are not aware of the whereabout of your kin and we will also try to find out through diplomatic channels," Mir told Nuzhat to a query to locate his father, Rab Nawaz, who had gone on the Uri-Muzaffarabad bus to meet his two sisters in Neelam valley.

Complete coverage: Tremors across borders

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Anil Bhatt in Teetwal
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