In Depth

Postscript: The Budgam boy’s crash calamity

On the day when an Indian pilot landed in Pakistan’s custody, a chopper crashed in Budgam. The ‘noiseless’ tragedy not only consumed six IAF staffers, but also killed an orphan, now being mourned by his inconsolable family.

With all her might, Zamruda raised her hands high in the sky, only to fall hard on her already-slammed cheeks that had turned harsh red. Surrounded by fellow village-women, she cried inconsolably over the tragic death of her 21-year-old son – so much so – that she had literally lost all her voice. Still, that didn’t stop her from questioning her Khuda: “Why him?”

The morning of February 26 is something Zamruda will never forget – the day, her ‘brave-heart’ son became a civilian-victim amid the rapidly growing tensions between the two nuclear armed states, India and Pakistan.

It was around 10:30 in the morning when Zamruda’s life came to a standstill – her son Kifayat Hussain Ganaie was killed in a dreadful crash of the Indian Air Force chopper in Garend Kalaan village of central Kashmir’s Budgam district.

Kifayat’s mother Zamruda. (FPK Photo/Zishan Amiri)

Many in his village say he was consumed in an impromptu blast near the crash-area while rescuing the fallen-pilots. “But Allah had planned something else for him,” exclaimed his elder sister, Afroza Jan.

Although Rs 4 lakh aid has been given to the deceased family by the J-K government, Afroza said, “that still won’t fill the void”.

“How will it?” she asked, looking at her 46-year-old mother, sitting in a dark corner of the room, painfully staring at the mini-size picture of her ‘handsome’ son.

ALSO READ: What happened in a Budgam village when IAF aircraft crashed

Being the youngest sibling in the family, Kifayat was everyone’s darling. Just at the age of one, he had lost his father and was hence brought-up under the shadow of his overly-caring-mother, Zamruda – “who was always partial towards the little Kifayat compared to the rest of the siblings”.

What hurt Zamruda the most, according to Afroza, was that Kifayat had only seen sorrows in his short lifespan. Having never received the fatherly-love, he was introduced to the financial responsibilities of the family at an early age.

Alongside school, he started working as a part-time labourer. But it wasn’t easy for Kifayat to tackle work and studies simultaneously, and so, to meet the needs of his ailing mother and three unmarried sisters, he eventually had to quit school and dedicatedly give a helping hand to his elder brother.

A relative of Kifayat’ holding his picture. (FPK Photo/Zishan Amiri)

“He wanted to join the army,” Afroza recalled. “Regardless of the busy schedule, he would never miss-out on lifting his self-made dumbbells. He loved body-building. The sight of him flaunting his well-built muscles was worth witnessing.”

“Such a charming personality he has,” – and what followed next, stole all her little-happy moment as she corrected herself, “Sorry; had.”

Eventually, Afroza summoned her long-held emotions. “Kifayat did not deserve such a death. He always believed in spreading smiles, but now look how he left all of us – shattered and broken.”

She broke down. Her mother – who had been silently listening to her daughter narrating Kifayat’s sorrowful journey – also resumed wailing.

And in no time, the collective mourning of the mother-daughter duo took over the rather-silent room, packed with the silent mourners.

Tightly hugging Afroza, Zamruda kept calling Kifayat by-name, asking him to anyhow emerge from the grave and come back to her. She kept accusing her God of stealing all her happiness. The pain of the wailing-mother was so intense and heart-wrenching, that none of the visitors had the emotional strength to console her.

FPK Photo/Zishan Amiri.

“Kifayat’s tragedy is a classic example to all the war-mongering news anchors sitting comfortably in their air-conditioned studios,” a mourner remarked, amid sobs and wails. “It’s the common Kashmiris that have always faced the heat – not the high-on-josh mainland crowd, or the politicians seeking electoral gains.”

Even as more than 24 hours had passed since Kifayat’s unfortunate death, Zamruda hadn’t eaten anything.

When Afroza tried serving her a glass of water, she gestured a straight no. Because all she wanted from everyone was to allow her to mourn, the manner in which, she wanted to – by slapping herself, cursing her fate, questioning her God and calling out Kifayat, to come running back to her, like he used to, always.


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