Nomad family compelled to take shelter under rock in forest
Says it fears for wild animals as their mud hut was gutted
Bhaderwah (J&K): The 10-member tribal nomad family is compelled to live under a huge hanging rock in the middle of a dense forest in Bhadarwah after their seasonal migration in search of greener pastures for their livestock around middle of the last month.
The family found their Dhok’ (mud house) burnt on reaching Fuklaan forest like few other families living in the upper reaches of Jaie and Guldanda and is desperately looking for assistance from the government to survive the harsh weather conditions and the threat of wild animals.
Firoz Din Chaarr, a nonagenarian, said he along with his family is living in subhuman conditions in Fuklaan Dhaar area of Bhaderwah amid the harsh weather, constant fear of wild animals and the threat of getting buried under the hanging rock under which his family had taken refuge.
“I am 96 now and all my life, I tried my best to live with dignity and self respect, but now my biggest worry is that if I die, how my family could manage themselves here under these circumstances,” Chaarr told PTI.
He said he does not have the energy to rebuild his house again.
“The only favour I want is a tented accommodation for my family and ailing wife because it is very difficult to survive without a shelter in harsh weather conditions which is a routine in these hills, especially during July and August,” he said.
When contacted, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Bhaderwah, Dil Mir Choudhary assured that the administration will provide them immediate assistance and will probe the mysterious burning of the Dhoks.
Police will be asked to take cognizance of the matter of repeated burning of Dhoks to bring the culprits to book, he said.
Divisional Forest Officer, Bhadarwah, Chander Shekhar also extended helping hand to the affected families and assured that the timber from fallen trees in the vicinity of their location will be given to them.
Like hundreds of tribal Gujjar and Bakarwal families who traditionally move along with their cattle to the vast meadows of Chenab region since centuries for summer months, Chaarr and his family reached his meadow at Fuklaan Dhaar, 42 kms from Bhadarwah town, on May 15 and found his Dhok destroyed in fire.
They have been pressing the panic button and are pleading for urgent help on humanitarian grounds.
A resident of Barnoti village of Kathua district, Chaarr was left with no other option but to take refuge under a huge hanging rock in the middle of the forest along with his 90-year-old ailing wife Gaabi and eight other family members including five minor children aged between one and 10 years, his widowed daughter Jaambo (65) and daughter-in-law Fatima Bibi (35).
“I have been residing in Fuklaan meadow for six months of summer for 90 years in complete peace and harmony but in the last one decade, our Dhok was burnt four times in 2012, 2016, 2019 and 2022, respectively,” he said.
Pleading for help, he said they need a tented accommodation and timber from fallen trees as the past two years of Coronavirus had rendered them economically weak.
Due to two years of Corona pandemic, we could not sell our produce (milk and milk products) in the market and have become bankrupt, his daughter Jaambo said.
She said she is the only bread earner for the family of 10 and had to trek 16 kms every day to sell milk to make both ends meet.
Due to the pandemic, I am left with no money to hire labourers or buy building material. But it hurts to see my elderly parents and kids either shivering with cold or sweating due to sweltering heat. So please help me out to save my family,” Jaambo said.
She said since the area is home to wild animals like bears and leopards, the family is unsafe in the open as four days back one of their buffalo was killed by a leopard.
“It is so scary, especially during nights as wild animals keep on roaming here and to ward off them from attacking us, we keep a bonfire lit all the night and remain awake till dawn,” Bibi said.
As per Lumberdar Jaie meadow Mohd Hussain Chechi at least half a dozen poverty-stricken tribal nomadic Gujjar families found their mud houses burnt under mysterious circumstances.