Elder sisters of 21-year-old Kifayat Ahmad Ganaie. Photograph by Bhat Burhan for The Kashmir Walla
The tensions amid India and Pakistan were spicing up. By Tuesday morning, both the nuclear-warhead neighbors had completed at least one attempt to violate each others’ air space, and the news was out. At around 10:10 am, one Mi-17 chopper of Indian Air Force, carrying six officers, crashed in the paddy fields of Garend Kalaan village of Budgam district of Central Kashmir, due to reason still uncertain.
Unaware of the accident, 21-year-old Kifayat Hussain Ganaie, alongside his four friends, sitting under the sun, heard a loud noise in the sky. Staring towards the sky, crashing Mi-17 seemed a rocket to them. As it appeared to them, it was coming down in their direction. All of it was happening in a short span of time. Feeling anxious, they ran.
“We thought it is a rocket, but once that fell on the ground – dusk and smoke were the only things visible. We ran to save our lives,” said Shahnawaz Hussain, one among the five friends who were the witnessing this incident.
Sighting the plane just 15 meters away from his spot, Mr. Ganaie, shouted to other friends, who had a run few meters ahead of him, “We can save the pilot,” as recalled by Mr. Hussain sitting in a semi-dark room filled with mourning men.
Mr. Ganaie had rushed to rescue the pilot after finding the windows of the plane open. “Once he reached near the plane, we heard a big blast, and it further barred us to walk ahead,” said Mr. Hussain, and added that by the time flames got down, Mr. Ganaie was no more.
“We saw a dead body which was completely burnt near the plane and thought it was of a pilot,” but soon after, as per Mr. Hussain, “We recognized him. It was Kifayat, without one of his legs.”
The sound of the blast had shaken every villager. They thought the war has begun. But, soon after Mr. Hussain and friends identified Mr. Ganaie’s body, they were completely numb. Mr. Ganaie lost his father at the age of one, and was the youngest in his family. In absence of father, the financial condition suffered hugely, which made Mr. Ganaie drop his studies, and help in paying the bills.
“He started working as a laborer in his young age. In this village, most of the boys are working in brick clans and with construction contractors, he was also doing the same,” said Muzaffar Hussain, a neighbor.
After the incident, the villagers had helped the government forces to lift the dead bodies of the six air force personnel who were inside the plane. Sitting in front of a cracked wall of the room, Mr. Ganaie’s handicapped elder sister, Ms. Afroza Jan recalls the promise of her younger brother with moist eyes. “Few days ago he told me that I will buy you a new dress on Nowrooz when I complained to him that he has not purchased anything for me in previous months.”
On Wednesday morning, Ms. Jan thought her brother has gone out for work, but when she heard the news of his death, “She had fainted after seeing his body.”
“He is a martyr. His aim was to save someone’s life. Allah will bless him for his intention,” said an old man among the mourners.
Two years ago, the family had shifted from their house to their uncle’s place, as the condition of their house was so bad that they feared of its collapse at any time. Since then, he just had two aims: construct a new house for their family, and to get her sister married, told Mr. Hussain.
But, it was her mother Zamrooda Bano who was slapping her face in pain of her son’s separation. Wearing a rough blue pheran she wailed, “Meain’ei gham khaar, be kas trevthas, Mouj leyj yo (Oh! My sorrow reliever, for whom have you left me. Your mother loves you.”