Srinagar: The last six days have been gruelling for a group of Kashmiri labourers and workers whose over 2500 kilometre journey from Andhra Pradesh to the valley refuses to finish.
The group of 89 Kashmiris worked as labourers, salesmen, and ran small businesses in Puttaparthy town, around 430 kilometres away from Hyderabad city in Andhra Pradesh.
On May 17, they were elated to know that a special train had been arranged to run from Hyderabad to Udhampur the next day.
But their joy was short-lived as they realised that there was no transport arranged from Puttaparthy to Hyderabad railway station either by the local administration or by the government back in J&K.
Already short of food and money, the group was shocked when they were told by the officials of Andhra Pradesh State Transport Corporation that they had to cough up Rs 1.82 lakh as fare for three buses to Hyderabad railway station.
Clueless, the workers had no option but to loan the amount from two local businessmen brothers Ram and Laxman Rao. The duo knew the Kashmiris who have been working in Andhra Pradesh for years.
The group left Puttaparthy for Hyderabad – an eight-hour journey – before dawn of May 18 to catch the train scheduled to leave for J&K at 10 pm that day.
“We hope to catch the train on time,” Sheikh Tariq, one of the workers in the group told The Kashmir Monitor at 4 am on May 18.
He said they had been not earned a penny for the last 60 days.
“We had to arrange the buses on our own and take a huge loan to pay the fare,” Tariq said.
The group reached Hyderabad railway station on time and boarded the train.
After a tiring 36 hour journey with around 900 persons on board, the group reached Udhampur on May 20.
From Udhampur, they boarded J&K SRTC buses for Kashmir.
However, the worst part of their journey was yet to come.
At Ramban, one of the passengers, Nazir Ahmad Rather, 52, a Srinagar resident who worked in Hyderabad city as a salesman, slipped to death in Khooni Nallah as he de-boarded the bus to relieve himself on the evening of May 20.
While the travellers along with the rescue team were trying to recover the body, there were massive landslides at Panthal in the Ramban-Ramsoo sector shutting the road for the next 40 hours.
The body was kept in a local mortuary in Ramban. Frantic family members in Srinagar called to know when and how would the body be sent home.
Almost 100 hours on the road, the travellers were tired, hungry and vexed until the morning of Friday when the road was finally cleared.
A traffic official at Ramban told The Kashmir Monitor that the road was cleared at 9:30 am on Friday.
“Around 1300 stranded vehicles have been cleared,” he said.
The Kashmir Monitor was not able to reach Tariq or any other person among the 89 as their mobile phones had run out of battery.
Another member of the group said over the phone that they were expecting to reach Srinagar by day end today.
Meanwhile, the body of the deceased finally arrived in Srinagar on Friday afternoon and was buried in his ancestral graveyard in Safa Kadal Srinagar.
Father of five, the deceased was coming back for his eldest daughter’s marriage, his son Adnan said.
“My eldest sister is supposed to get married on June 18-19. The last we spoke to him, he seemed tired because of the journey. He hadn’t eaten properly for days too. While I was offering prayers during the night of Shab-e-Qadr, our entire locality had come to know about the tragedy. We eventually came to know during the Sehri time,” Adnan said.
To mention, around 80,000 stranded J&K residents in several states of India have arrived in J&K so far.