Srinagar: On August 18, a photograph that had gone viral on social media inspired Lieutenant General Kanwal Jeet Singh Dhillon to tweet: “Kashmiriyat Sufiyat Insaaniyat”.
The photograph showed the people of Lethpora in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district helping soldiers recover from a road accident. It was posted on the day of the accident and created much goodwill across the country for the spirit of Kashmiriyat.
Incidents of stone-pelting and clashes with security forces have always been reported from Kashmir. But instances of good relations between the people of Kashmir and the forces seldom make the news. The fact, however, is that Kashmiris have never turned their backs on people who have been involved or injured in accidents, whoever those people may be.
On August 18, when an Army vehicle skidded off the national highway and crashed into a house at Lethpora, Ayaz Ahmad Dar, who had been hard at work in his tailor’s shop along the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, abandoned his work and rushed to the road along with other people in the area when he heard a crash and screams. In no time, they had rescued the soldiers in the vehicle.
“The driver was injured; blood was oozing from his head. We brought water, food and first aid and treated the injured soldiers,” said 38-year-old Dar.
Dar’s house is located on the highway in Lethpora, a few yards from the place where the February 2019 suicide attack left 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers dead.
The police confirmed that the army vehicle had skidded off the highway near Lethpora in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district. The driver had lost control and hit a residential building, a police official said.
According to Dar and the other locals, the damage to the house was minimal. “This was an accident; it could have happened to anyone. We ran to the injured soldiers and gave them treatment,” said Dar.
With no thought of possible infection from the COVID-19 virus, the locals helped the soldiers recover and offered them food and water. “To help stop the blood oozing from a soldier’s head, a woman asked her son to bring her scarf and bound his head with it. This is Kashmiriyat. We have always followed this principle and we always will,” said Dar.
A local woman told The Wire: “Kashmiriyat is the spirit to help and we keep it alive always.”
The victory of humanity
“This is Kashmir. We call it Kashmiriyat,” tweeted Aijaz Choudhary, deputy superintendent of police, Awantipora, after seeing the photographs of the accident at Lethpora on social media.
Jammu and Kashmir Congress leader Salman Nizami tweeted: “Kashmiri Muslims offer water, help to the injured Army Jawans after the Vehicle they were travelling skid off the road. This is Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat! (sic)”
Kashmiri Muslims offer water, help to the injured Army Jawans after the Vehicle they were travelling skid off the road. This is Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat! pic.twitter.com/g9DVSMFcxr
— Salman Nizami (@SalmanNizami_) August 19, 2020
Kashmiris have always been known for their strong sense of humanity, as the security forces in the Union Territory will testify.
In September 2017, a video showing locals helping accident-hit soldiers went viral on social media. The driver of an army truck in central Kashmir’s Budgam district had lost control of the vehicle which veered off the road, resulting in minor injuries to several soldiers. The locals helped evacuate the injured soldiers from the truck.
In October 2016, when Kashmir simmered after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, Kashmiri youth in Lasjan area of Srinagar city rescued a soldier who was trapped inside a mangled vehicle. The Army vehicle had veered off the road and hit a tree after the driver lost control. When the efforts of other soldiers to evacuate him did not work, local Kashmiri youth brought the injured soldier out by parking a truck next to the damaged vehicle.
The security forces at that time had been killing local protesters, recalled Mushtaq Ahmad, an automobile dealer in the area, about the accident in Lasjan. But the young men went to rescue the injured soldier anyway.
“I vividly remember how they helped the soldier,” Ahmad told The Wire. “Women also brought water and food for the security forces. Kashmiris have repeatedly displayed Kashmiriyat by helping security forces during road accidents.”
In July 2016, Kashmiris defied curfew and risked their lives to rescue and take to hospital pilgrims on the Amarnath Yatra who had been injured in a road accident on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway near Bhijbehra Anantnag.
Irfan Amin Malik is a journalist based in Kashmir and he tweets @irfanaminmalik.