School bags and unfinished bridge’: Residents seek answers as boat carrying 19 capsizes in Srinagar

JK News Live

Asma Bhat/ Ubaid Mukhtar

Srinagar : Mudasir and Tanveer’s excitement knew no bounds as they set off for school on Tuesday morning. They had eagerly awaited this day, proudly sporting their new bags they had acquired from Lal Chowk just two days ago. Little did their family know, those bags would outlast their beloved children.

“When the boat, tethered by a rope, started its journey to the other side of the river, everything seemed routine. But in an instant, tragedy struck. The rope snapped, and the relentless current of the river seized the boat, dragging it towards an unforgiving fate. The boat collided with the pillar of an under-construction bridge, shattering the hopes and dreams of those on board,” recounted a tearful local from Batwara, Srinagar.

Firdousa, the mother, clung desperately to her children, grasping onto their bags with all her might in a futile attempt to shield them from the river’s merciless grip. The relentless force of the water overpowered her, snatching away her precious children. All the residents could salvage from the tumultuous waters were the two bags, silent witnesses to the heart-wrenching tragedy of the mother and her two children.

“We laid them to rest in the same grave,” whispered the local, his voice choked with emotion.

As we travel through the Gandabal Mohalla of Batwara, nearly four kilometers from Srinagar’s Lal Chowk, the residents had gathered by the side of the Jhelum River, watching over the rescue operations launched jointly by the State Disaster Relief Force (SDRF), National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF), Fire and Emergency Services, Jammu Kashmir Police, and Indian Army.

On Tuesday, around 7:45 A.M., a boat trying to cross to the other side of the Jhelum, with at least twenty people on board, capsized. This included eight to ten school-going children, most of them below the age of 13.

The people who have gathered here include mostly the relatives and neighbors of those who drowned in the overflowing waters of the Jhelum River.

For the last few days, the Kashmir Valley has witnessed incessant rains leading to the swelling of water levels in the river Jhelum. As per officials, the gauge at Ram Munshi Bagh recorded a level of 15.67 feet, just below the warning level at 10 A.M., which may hamper the rescue operations launched on Tuesday.

One of the first things to be retrieved from the Jhelum was the four school bags; however, those carrying them have not been found yet. “The future of Kashmir has drowned. Today our future has drowned,” a woman wailed.

Mohammed Irshad, a distressed local, encapsulated the profound sorrow of the community: “It’s agonizing to think that these children set off in the morning, yet all that’s returned are their school bags, not them. The bags came back, but they didn’t.”

The Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) for Kashmir, the Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar, and the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) for Srinagar are at the spot, personally overseeing the rescue efforts.

Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha stated, “I am deeply saddened by the loss of lives in the Srinagar boat accident. My thoughts are with the grieving families, and I pray for their strength during this difficult time. The SDRF, Army, and other agencies are actively engaged in relief and rescue operations.”

He further remarked, “The administration is extending all possible assistance to the affected families, providing medical aid to the injured. Marcos teams have been put on alert. I am closely monitoring the situation and providing necessary guidance to the rescue teams on the ground.”

An unconstructed bridge
Amidst those gathered at the banks of the Jhelum is a man who claims to be a relative of one of the deceased. Pointing towards an under-construction bridge, he said, “Had this bridge been built, our children could have been saved. It has been a lifetime since they started construction of this bridge.”

The construction of this crucial bridge over the Jhelum River, which began in 2012, remains unfinished.

The bridge was intended to connect various localities, facilitating easier access to areas including Batwara, where the tragedy unfolded.

Despite its significance, delays have plagued the project, with work progressing slowly since its inception in 2012.

Though residents expressed frustration over the officials’ negligence towards completing the bridge, their demands were never met.

“This non-seriousness of the administration has cost the lives of our children. They can get the bridge now, but how will they return our children? We, the local residents, are forced to take boats in the morning to shorten the distance between the two sides; otherwise, we have to travel several kilometers to reach the other side of the river. It is highly regrettable that we had to lose our children for our voice to be heard,” Mohammed Ashraf, a local, told The Kashmiriyat.

The school bags
Firdousa Jan, a local resident, left her home like every morning, accompanying her two young twins, Mudasir Fayaz and Tanveer Fayaz, to the other side of the river on the boat.

The bodies of the three were the first to be recovered during the rescue operation. “Mudasir, 11, had recently completed Itikaaf of 10 days. We were all happy to see him so inclined towards Islam at such an early age. They used to recite Adhaan at Fajr in the mosque,” said their relative.

“They were just blooming. These are young buds. What is the development we are talking about? Kids are dying here because we do not have roads, bridges, and schools, and this is Srinagar, mind you,” he told The Kashmiriyat.

Around 10 A.M., the rescue teams found the four bags in the waters of the river Jhelum. “We found the bags floating on the surface of the water. We assumed that the children would be around, but unfortunately, we have not found them,” an SDRF personnel said.

He said that the increased water level in Jhelum may make the rescue operations a little tough; however, the teams are trying their best. “We handed over the bags to the locals. It was extremely disheartening for us to see those bags,” the SDRF personnel told The Kashmiriyat.

A local highlighted the issue of the absence of a primary school in the area. “There is no school in the area, forcing us to send our children to the other side for even their primary studies,” said Mohammed Ashraf.

While six bodies have been found so far, locals on the banks of Jhelum wait, as they believe twenty people were onboard. Hundreds gathered here for the funeral of the five, which included a mother and her two children.

Shabir Ahmed Bhat, son of Bashir Ahmed Bhat, Raziya, daughter of Ghulam Mohammed Gojri, and Gulzar Ahmed Dar also died during the tragic incident.

Showkat Ahmad Sheikh, a mason, was accompanying his child Haziq to school when the tragedy unfolded. Gulzar Ahmed Khan, 60, was going for some work on the same boat. They are still missing along with Farhan Waseem.

Among those wailing in the houses is Masarat Waseem. Masarat was accompanying her 7-year-old son Farhan when the boat collided with one of the pillars of an under-construction bridge. Masarat was rescued, but Farhan remains missing.

Others rescued include Irshada Bilal, Ghulam Nabi, Mehraj u Din, Aisha Bilal, Noor Mohammed, Humaira Jan, Mohammed Rafiq, and Mushtaq Ahmed.

As onlookers along the riverbanks urge officials to expand the search downstream, fearing that the swift current may have carried the missing individuals further away, many locals are aghast and demand an inquiry over the bridge that is incomplete despite so many years having passed.

“What smart city are they talking about? This is Srinagar. They created a social media buzz about Lal Chowk and its suburbs. Even that claim has fallen flat. A bit of rainfall drowns the entire area,” said another local resident.(The Kashmiriyat)

Author Profile

JK News Live
JK News Live is a platform where you find comprehensive coverage and up-to-the-minute news, feature stories and videos across multiple platform.


Email: [email protected]

JK News Live

JK News Live is a platform where you find comprehensive coverage and up-to-the-minute news, feature stories and videos across multiple platform.


Email: [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous Story

Kupwara Police arrests an absconder evading his arrest for more than 6 years in Kupwara

Next Story

Srinagar Boat Capsizing Incident: Will keep the rescue operation on through night hours to look for missing persons, says DC Srinagar Dr. Bilal Mohiuddin

Latest from Kashmir