Doda: Eight Months
After The Massacre
By Yoginder Sikand
23 December, 2006
months ago unidentified gunmen shot dead almost two dozen Hindus in
Kulhand, in Kashmir's Doda district. Months after the carnage, the survivors
now struggle to rebuild their lives, with little help forthcoming from
Damlu Devi is in her forties
but she looks at least twenty years older. A widow, she lost her only
son, Jagdish, in the massacre. One of her grand-daughters, too, was
slain. 'The trauma has driven me almost mad', she says amidst uncontrollable
sobs. She now lives in a hovel with her widowed daughter-in-law and
her five children. Jagdish, the sole source of income for the family,
was, like many others of the Dalit Megh caste, a labourer. But now that
he is no more, the family
has no way to survive other than a small plot of stony land.
'We received two lakh rupees
in compensation from the government', Damlu Devi says 'but of that we
have already spent forty thousand on medicines'. Her daughter-in-law
was shot in the leg, which has now developed into a serious injury,
preventing her from walking properly, and one of her grand-sons has
polio and appears to be mentally challenged. 'Every month we have to
buy medicines for them, and when the money we have in the bank dries
up, we don't know how we will survive', she says. 'We used to have two
bullocks, but after Jagdish was killed we had to sell them because we
now have no one to graze them'.
Only one of Damlu Devi's
grand-chilren receives a sum of 750 rupees a month from the government,
while she herself receives a very modest widow pension. Her daughter-in-law
says she was offered a job in the sheep husbandry department in Doda
town, a two-hour journey away, but she says it might involve night duty,
which would mean it would be impossible for her to work, leaving her
children behind in Kulhand.
The single-room hovel that
the family lives in is actually an animal shelter. It is dark and smoke-filled,
and the family's meager possessions—blankets, pots and pans—clutter
the room. Damlu Devi's five grand-children, the oldest of whom is around
thirteen, sit around the fireplace, sad and sullen. They all look thoroughly
under-nourished and thinly-clad, and I wonder at the struggle that they
will have to put up to face the coming harsh winter.
The family used to earlier
live in a modest house but after the massacre they let an army unit
stationed in the village to live in it. Although this means increased
security, it has not meant much economic benefit, for the only rent
that the family receives is a meager 300 rupees.
Damlu Devi takes out a newspaper
cutting bearing a photograph of her slain son. She bursts into tears.
I look at the clouds swirling outside. I can sense the clouds in Damlu
Devi's mind too. Dense and unrelenting, bearing God alone knows what.
Some friends have got together and we have decided to help Damlu Devi's
famly in a modest way. We have already bought her a cow, which might
help increase the family's meager income. We would like to purchase
two more cows for her (each cow being priced at between 13—15
thousand rupees). In case you want to help out, please contact Dr. Zia
Shoukat Mughal, who works at the Government Hospital, Doda. His email
id is email@example.com.
Cell number: 09419295127
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