Village in Grief | Families, neighbours of Waltengoo accident victims recount poignant stories

Kulgam, Dec 9: Ghulam Hassan Gorsi is among the six dead labourers resting in a row under oblong mounds of earth in Waltengoo Nar, an outlying village in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district.

Gorsi died in an accident along with five other workers on Monday morning, when a bus they were travelling in crashed after plummeting in a deep gorge in Shimla, the capital city of Himachal Pradesh.

The life of Gorsi, 47, serves as a poignant example of hope and resilience.

In February 2005, a heavy and continuous snowfall spurred mighty avalanches burying the entire Waltengoo Nar, located on the foothills of awe-inspiring Pir Panjal mountains, some 20 km from Kulgam town.

The massive slabs of snow buried nearly 160 people alive.

Gorsi, who was in Punjab, lost his entire family in the incident.

As he learnt about the tragedy, he rushed home only to find his family six feet under the snow.

Gorsi faced the tragedy valiantly and tried to rebuild his life.

After some time, he married again and started living happily with his wife and children.

“He never lost his courage. He picked up pieces and rebuilt his life,” said Muhammad Younus, a relative of Gorsi.

Each year Gorsi and other men from the village would go to northern states like Punjab and Himachal Pradesh to take up menial jobs during winters to feed their families back home.

“This year he had gone just a week ago,” Younus said.

He said that the tragedy had enveloped the entire village in a blanket of grief and raised the spectre of the 2005 avalanche.

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Like Gorsi, other victims – Shabir Ahmad, Fareed Ahmad, Mushtaq Ahmad, Gulzar Ahmad, and Talib – from the village have their share of tragedies.

Shabir, a class 12 student, was the only brother among seven siblings.

“His family is struggling to reconcile with the loss of their son,” said one of his neighbours.

He said that the tragedy upended their life instantly.

Similarly, Fareed, another victim, had married merely 6 to 7 months ago.

Now, he has left behind a pregnant wife and old parents.

Gulzar’s two newborn babies had died in September while Mushtaq had lost his parents and brothers to the monstrous avalanche.

Talib too was a victim of the snowstorm.

The village, comprising around 160 households, belongs to the economically and socially marginalised Gujjar community.

After the 2005 avalanche, the government rolled out a rehabilitation policy and built hutments for the victims in Wasknag and Nounugh Colony.

However, many affected families are yet to be allotted these accommodations.

Choudhary Nazir Ahmad, a Gujjar leader residing in the area, told Greater Kashmir that around 40 hutments were still pending.

He said that most of the families of the accident victims had not been allotted such accommodation.

However, Ahmad said that the district administration provided an immediate cash relief of Rs 25,000 to the families of the deceased.

He demanded adequate compensation for the victims’ families.


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