Kashmir: A photojournalist recounts horrors of Kulgam blast

Wasim froze for a fleeting moment as he’d never seen such a horrific scene before. Beyond the call of duty, he made a dash for the spot and helped locals to evacuate the injured to the hospital

NH photo
NH photo

Gulzar Bhat

On October 21, the autumn sun shone bright against the brilliant blue sky over Laroo village in southern Kulgam district. The early morning hush was suddenly broken by a gun-battle between militants and government forces. A continuous rat-a-tat of guns had spurred the sturdy village canines to run off towards the nearby harvested paddy fields.

Mir Wasim, a photojournalist with a leading local daily, quickly finished his breakfast and scrambled into his jeans and pullover. Putting his camera and a few lenses on the back seat of his milky white car, he drove straight to the gun fight site.

Wasim is rather familiar with such sites as he has covered a plethora of encounters in the past. The picture this day was no way a different one. He saw the same familiar scene: government forces in bullet proof vests carrying automated rifles having dotted the entire area. While some were engaged in a raging fire-fight with militants, others were kept on the stand by.

Wasim picked his camera and began capturing the movement of armed forces.

Minutes later, he heard an earthshaking boom as guns on both sides fell silent following an explosion. The forces had blown up the house and the militants inside, four in number,  were lying dead under the wreckage.

Shortly thereafter, armed forces started withdrawing from the place and within few minutes every single soldier had left the area.

The call of duty drew the young lens man closer to the damaged house where the militants had taken refuge.

Large billows of  smoke were rising from the ravaged structure and knots of people were walking through pile of debris, Wasim recalls.

As he was busy taking pictures of the devastated house, the unsuspecting photojournalist saw another massive blast ripping through the debris.

"I was at a distance of just 15 feet from the spot where the blast occurred. As soon as I gathered wits, I saw people drenched in blood strewn all over the debris. Some crying in excruciating pain while others lying motion less," a shell-shocked Wasim narrates the sequences of events.

After a pause, Wasim further says, he froze for a fleeting moment as he had never seen such a horrific scene before. Beyond the call of  duty, he made a dash for the spot and helped locals to evacuate the injured to hospital. He even put some wounded in his own car and rushed them straight to  hospital.photo

"The blast had ripped out holes in their bodies. Some had their ribs jutted out of their bodies while many had suffered deep gashes on their heads," Wasim recalls.

Almost all of them were the same faces Wasim had seen moments before, walking on their own feet. Now covered in blood and dust being carried on stretchers and trolleys to the nearby hospital.

A total of seven people had died while an odd dozen sustained injuries in the blast.

Wasim clearly remembers the horror when he took a middle aged woman to a hospital only to find her young son dead.

"She waved down my car while I was rushing an injured to a nearby facility. She requested me to take her to the hosptial as her son had also got injured in the blast. Upon reaching the hospital, we came to know that her son had succumbed to his injuries," Wasim says, adding that it was like a dooms day scenario at the hospital.

Around 4:00 pm Wasim filed his day's work to his media outlet. But since then he is struggling to get back to his normal self. The horror refuses to leave him and Wasim continues to have a fitful night’s sleep.

"The images of the blast site keep haunting me...there is no escape from such dreadful realities of life in Kashmir!"

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