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3 Feb 2017

Trek through snow with mom's body

Footage recorded by a member of the 50-strong group shows the trek through the snow and the body of the soldier’s mother being carried 
MUZAFFAR RAINA, TT, Srinagar, Feb. 2: Home they brought the soldier's mother dead - on shoulders, trudging through 10-foot snow for 10 hours and crossing a treacherous high-altitude pass.
The most painful journey of Mohammad Abbas Khan's life took five days instead of the usual 24 hours, drawing fleeting attention to the annual endurance test border residents face in Kashmir.
The soldier's resolve to bury his mother in her village also brought to light acts of kindness from within and without family and alleged official apathy as well as empathy.
Abbas, a jawan in the Indian Army, had taken his mother to Pathankot in Punjab, where he was posted, a few weeks ago to ensure she escaped the biting cold back home in Kashmir's Karnah, near the Line of Control.
But his mother, who had been ill, died of a heart attack on January 28.
The next morning, Abbas drove with the body of his mother to Jammu and then to Srinagar. "We pleaded with an army officer for a chopper from Srinagar, knowing the road was blocked and we could not get home," said Shah Nawaz, his cousin.
Abbas then left for Drangyari in Kupwara, hoping the army might help them fly the body to Chitrakote, 52km away. "The help never came. We approached the civil administration but they too gave us nothing but promises," Nawaz said.
By then, a few relatives, including Nawaz, from Chitrakote had reached Drangyari with a group of labourers. "They were stuck with us in sub-zero temperatures. Fortunately, we were given shelter and food by villagers at Drangyari. All these days we waited for the chopper. We kept calling the officers. They said it was coming but it never came," Nawaz said.
They were stranded in Drangyari for four days.
Today, Abbas and the others set out on foot, carrying the body for 10 hours and covering 30km. (An army officer in Kupwara later said a chopper was dispatched today but Abbas had by then left on foot.)
The trek was not easy. Abbas and the others had to carve a walking track in the snow, lest they get trapped, and had to cross Sadhna Top, the pass located at 10,700 feet.
"An army unit in Drangyari helped us with over a dozen labourers. In all, we had 50 men. Forty of us were making the track (through the snow) and another five to 10 people took turns to carry the body. At times, our men slipped into the snow up to the neck and the others had to pull them out," Nawaz said.
"We have gone through hell all these days. The trek was dangerous and God knows how many times we thought we would not be able to make it," he added.
They travelled the remaining 22km to Chitrakote in passing vehicles before reaching home and completing the last rites of Abbas's mother.

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