This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Junaid Rather. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

10 Years On, Survivors Relive A Horrifying Tragedy That Killed 20 Children In Kashmir

More from Junaid Rather

By Junaid Rather:

A mother of a Kashmiri boy and girl, both of whom died when a boat capsized, is consoled by other women during a funeral in Handwara, 80 km (50 miles) north of Srinagar, May 31, 2006. At least 20 school children died in Indian Kashmir on Tuesday after their boat capsized in the region's largest lake, police and army officials said. The children were on a trip when their boat went down the Wular Lake, about 65 km (40 miles) north of Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli - RTR1DXW4
Image credit: Reuters/Fayaz Kabli.

Bilquees was waiting for her turn on the banks of Wular Lake to take a ride when the boat capsised. Moments later she saw her sister Rehana drowning. “Her last words to me were – papas wanta mi bachaw (tell father to save me),” she says.

The vast lake was abuzz with activity on that bright summer day. Girls running around, boys playing hide-and-seek in nearby thickets and teachers disciplining tots to sing poems of hope and a brighter tomorrow. The usually silent Wular had come to life. In the afternoon, children were goaded at a place for lunch. Almost everyone spoke of the joyride that was to be taken once the lunch was over.

A Boat Assault Universal Type (BAUT) speedboat came cruising towards the banks and the children thumped the ground in jubilation. It belonged to MARCOS – highly trained marine commandoes belonging to the Indian Navy, who have been stationed at the lake since the outbreak of insurgency in the state in 1989.

The first batch of students and teachers boarded the boat and it set out for a joyride that was a ‘gesture of friendship’ offered by the MARCOS. While a group of children and their teachers got off safely from the first two rides, the small speedboat, with over 30 on board, and which is meant for 16 fully equipped combat troops and two crew members, capsised in the middle of the lake. The negligence on part of MARCOS cost 22 lives including 20 children.

Shaista was among the children from Burning Candle School who were in the boat when it capsised. “We were almost 35 people in the boat. There was a hole in the bottom of the boat where from water was continuously coming in,” she says.

Contrary to the Navy’s claim that the children had assembled on one-side and the boat lost balance when it took a sharp turn. She says, “Water had seeped into the boat through the hole and it lost balance and collapsed.”

Abdul Hamid, a resident of Watlab – situated on the banks of the lake says, “I was watching these kids from other side of the lake. They were very happy. Once they reached at centre, the boat collapsed.” He adds that the boat “didn’t take any steep turn.”

Locals here say these deaths could have been prevented if men from the Navy hadn’t stopped them. “When kids shouted for help, people from all adjacent areas gathered. But the Navy personnel didn’t allow us to interfere. Despite that we rescued six kids. If the Navy hadn’t stopped us we could have saved more,” says Hamid’s friend Mohammad Ramzan.

Families Kept In The Dark

Classmates, friends and siblings died after the boat capsised in Wular on May 30, 2006. Not far away from the Handwara market in a desolate alley is the house of Ayesha Bano, who lost her six-year-old son Mehraj-ud-din and 10-year-old daughter Shameema in the tragedy.

With tears rolling down her eyes she regrets her decision to send her children on a picnic despite their father opposing the decision. “I compelled my husband to give permission to the kids for an excursion,” she says amid sobs.

He did not allow, but, Ayesha joined the chorus with along her children and made him agree.

“The teachers of Burning Candle Public School assured that they will not take kids to a place where there was a water body,” she says.

Sources say that the school authorities changed their mind after the Navy offered them the joyrides as a “friendship gesture”. Instead of going to picnic to the shrine of a saint in Reshvoor, they headed to Watlab on the banks of Wular.

“If I would have come to know earlier that school authorities are going for excursion under the Indian Navy. I would have never sent my kids with them,” she says adding, “It seems that Indian navy and school authorities had pre-planned for the murder of 20 kids.”

Like Ayesha, Farooq Ahmad who lost his two daughters was not aware that the excursion was in collaboration with the Navy. He was also kept in the dark about the spot chosen for the excursion. The lie cost him his daughters Samreena, a student of Class IX, and Suraya, who was in Class II.

“School authorities assured me that they will take kids to Baba Shukur Din Shrine. But notwithstanding their promise they took our kids to Watlab,” he says.

The pain keeps on manifesting for Farooq and his family. “After one month, Samreena’s teacher gave me my daughter’s picture and told me that she had clicked it half an hour before this episode,” he says.

Had it not been for the local fishermen, Farooq would have lost his third daughter, Shaista. “She was among the children who drowned but was rescued by local fishermen,” he says.

Graveyard And Justice

Names of children who drowned are inscribed on a stone. All the children have been buried in a graveyard near Handwara where smiling roses ornament the graves. “The children share graves here. Brothers have been buried together, somewhere three children are buried in the same grave,” says the caretaker.

In the hearts of its survivors, the tragedy is still fresh. “I also boarded the boat, but my Didi (sister) made me get down saying that it is dangerous to travel in it as it was already overloaded,” recalls Sufiya, who lost her two sisters in the tragedy.

You must be to comment.

More from Junaid Rather

Similar Posts

By FAUZAN ARSHAD

By Payal Tatwal

By Anju Kanwar

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below