Special Report

Canine terror’s latest victim—Kickboxing champion Ahmad Bin Javaid

Ahmad Bin Javaid. [Family Photo.]

Only two months ago, Ahmad had won the national medal in kickboxing by beating his opponent. Then he fell to the growing stray problem of Kashmir. 

The cries erupted in the vicinity of Secretariat and Srinagar Municipal Corporation on May 28—when a cleric’s wife came out for domestic work. Her hysteric cries instead heralded news of another dogged assault in Kashmir.

Inside a modest two-storey house in Srinagar’s Batamaloo area, grief now engulfes the mourners who gathered to bid farewell to a young boy. The tragedy that unfolded before their eyes etched a painful memory that refuses to fade away. It was a grim reminder of the relentless nightmare that plagued their lives.

The biting problem resurfaced in the heart of the summer capital. The grievers mince no words about how custodians of the city are unable to contain the crisis.

The cleric’s wife meanwhile recounted the horrific event to the grieving crowd, her words resonating with an unbearable anguish. 

“I spotted something dangling in the murky waters of the drain,” she said, her voice trembling with fear. “At first, I thought it was a toy or something innocuous, but as I looked closer, a wave of terror washed over me, and I cried out in panic.”

Her screams summoned a few boys from their nearby homes, who swiftly formed a human chain to rescue the unconscious body from the drain.

A man walks next to a drain in the backyard of Javaid Ahmad’s house. [FPK Photo/Umar Farooq.]

Inside her Batamaloo home, a mother wept inconsolably, her tears flowing incessantly with each spoonful of tea. Her wails of pain echoed through the walls, her heartrending lamentation piercing the very soul of those who heard it. 

Athe Manz Ha Nyoovhom Khudayo,” she repeated, her voice filled with searing grief. Her son had been snatched away so cruelly.

A playmate of her son came as a harbinger of death and made her run like a madcap on the streets—shouting and crying—before shifting her son, Ahmad Bin Javaid, to the hospital. 

He was put on ventilator support with continuous monitoring. But 12 days later, Dr. Muhammad Salim Khan, Professor and HOD Community Medicine at GMC Srinagar, announced his fate: “The 7-year-old child was chased by a pack of dogs in Batmaloo Srinagar, after which he had fallen in a drain and was brain dead with no chances of survival.” 

Ahmad died at Children’s Hospital Bemina where he was admitted on May 28. Being a brilliant student and athlete, his death was condoled widely. Only two months ago, Ahmad had won the national medal in kickboxing.

“We’ve lost our piece of heart,” Mohammad Maqbool Rather, Ahmad’s septuagenarian grandfather, mourned in a hall. “His death has broken our back, as he was the only male child in our family.”

Ahmad had been playing cricket with his friends in the backyard when the ball accidentally rolled into a nearby drain. As he approached the drain to retrieve it, a pack of dogs began barking ferociously at him and his friends. Desperately trying to escape the onslaught, Ahmad leaped over the drain, but tragically, he fell in.

His father vividly remembers cradling Ahmad’s head in his lap, tears streaming down his face as they rushed to the hospital. Javaid Rather now questions the negligence that allowed the drains to remain uncovered and the unchecked population of dogs in their locality.

“Due to the drain’s putrid water, Ahmad was battling a stomach pain,” he recalls his son’s last moments. “His rescuers had already tried to pump his chest to take out the muddy water, but the damage had already been done.”

Javaid Ahmad Rather recalling his son’s life and death. [FPK Photo/Umar Farooq.]

Ahmad’s case is the latest in Kashmir’s endless saga of dog menace. In year 2022, stray dogs had reached a staggering number of 100,000—a quantum jump compared to previous years. The same year, Kashmir reported over 15,000 cases of dog bites, reflecting an alarming increase of 30 per cent compared to the previous year.

Dog bites, notably, cause physical injuries, infections, and transmit diseases such as rabies. Over 99 per cent of human rabies cases are caused by dog bites, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), leading to approximately 59,000 fatalities worldwide annually. 

In the face of this deadly menace, the officials in Kashmir claim an antidote of “mass vaccination and sterilization, public awareness campaigns and strengthening animal control services”. 

But the growing number of dog bite cases is only posing a significant challenge to public health and safety in the valley today, prompting the Batamaloo family to call for some emergency measures to contain the canine terror in their backyard.

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