October 2006 News

Grief Has Faded, Money Matters

4 October 2006
The Hindustan Times

Kamalkot: Natural calamities usually boil down to politics over relief - some- times even overriding personal loss. Abdul Kabir, a resident of Kamalkot in Kashmir's Uri district, lost 20 members of his family in the temblor that ravaged the Valley on October 8 last year. But he had to time for tears. The villager had to run from pillarto-post to prove that his house was 'of- ficially damaged' even though most of his family-members were buried alive under the rubble of his home which caved in. Exasperated, he finally moved the Lok Adalat (a public court), which took up his case with the district administration. Kabir was given the first installment of Rs 40,000, but was denied the additional Rs 30,000 sanctioned for temporary sheds. Kabir lives in a makeshift hut with his family of five and does not want to build a new home. The mem- ories of October 8 are still fresh. 'Even now, the valley is rocked by mild aftershocks. Who knows, we might live to see another October 8. I find this hut safe.' Kabir's house was not on the list of 'razed structures' by officials who came to take stock of the damage af- ter the earthquake. As a result, he was denied compensation. 'We were mourning the dead and there was no one to brief the team on the state of our house. I received the first installment of the ex- gratia sanc- tioned for the dead, but nothing for my damaged home. It was only after I moved court that the authorities paid me Rs 40,000 to rebuild my house.' His is still waiting for the money to erect a temporary shed. Kabir's losses run deeper than a 'broken' home - no price tag can be put to it. His father Muzumil Hussain, an imam (priest) in the local village mosque, was ailing. On the fateful day, his entire clan comprising nearly 50 relatives came to visit the old man. 'Suddenly, we felt the ground shaking beneath our feet. Fissures opened up and our house crumbled like a pack of cards taking almost everyone in'. Kabir was working on the field. Recalling the nightmare, Kabir said the whole village 'trembled like a leaf ', whipping up eddies of dust. 'Even the mountains surrounding our village were shaking, I thought as if it was Judgment Day. Frightened, I ran home. The house was a mass of concrete and bricks and I could hear the cries of those trapped inside'. Some of those present managed to escape, but Kabir's 'father, mother, daughter, two sisters, one of their children, a sister-in-law, a nephew, uncle, aunt and their two children, sister's daughter and a maternal aunt were among the 20, smothered to death.' 'The army retrieved my daughter's body after seven days,' Kabir said. He was distraught - like a man shorn of his moorings. But a year down the line, reality bites. Thoughts of pending relief occupy his mind most of the time. 'I feel cheated. I lost 20 members of my family. Everyone came and made promises, but till date not a single one has been fulfilled,' Kabir lamented. Waiting for a warm shelter Villagers in Uri are still waiting for compensation to rebuild their homes. Resentment is brewing among the villagers, most of whom live in makeshift homes. Many villagers are scared to rebuild their houses because they fear another quake.


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