Yaseen Shabaz Malik
Bandipora: It was a rainy day of 25 March, when 4 young boys from Hajin returned to their respective homes in Hajin, after attending a religious event at New Delhi. It was a beginning of the onset of COVID 19 in the hamlet and saw the increase in the scale of COVID 19 patients in Hajin belt.
Abdul Majeed, 56 of Hajin village was crying copiously beneath an apple tree in an orchard at his homeland, Hajin of north Kashmir’s Bandipora, the hotspot of the coronavirus pandemic.
“with the onset of April, farmers are seen busy in manuring and spraying pesticides but this the coronavirus Pandemic swept us all and left us in crisis, we didn’t spray the season’s first Pesticides which resulted in the damage of crops”, said Majeed in crying tone.
“It seems our crops will get rotten this year ” he adds.
According to health officials, the area has become a hotspot of the coronavirus pandemic. The cases have soared to 125 in the district including a death of a 52-year old elderly man of Gundjehangir village.
Hajin falls some 45 kilometres away from the district headquarters of Bandipora, and so far registered one death and 83 positive cases and still counting.
Bandipora becomes the first district which crosses 100 marks in positive cases, a Total number of cases in the district now stands at 125 of which 103 are active while 22 patients have recovered so far. A patient has also died due to Covid-19 in Gund-Jahengeer village of Hajin block.
Out of the total positive cases, 83 were reported from Hajin medical block and 42 from Bandipora block.
On April 6, amidst heavy rain, a 52-year old man hailing from the Gundjehangir village in Bandipora district had complained of some health problem, his family took him to SMHS hospital Srinagar where he was undergoing treatment pneumonia ailment, and the same day he met the death. His COVID 19 tests were declared positive, after his death which shocked the family and whole village.
According to his son, “He was feeling good at home but, on April 6, afternoon, he had complained of some illness for which we shifted him to SMHS Hospital in our personal vehicle. At the hospital, he was given treatment but after battling the disease for some time he died and after his death doctors told us his COVID 19 test is positive” he said.
Before detecting COVID-19, he had met several people as he had a good friend circuit around, he also had gone to a nearby village clinic where he underwent some tests. The clinic was sanitized by the authorities the next day after his death. His family said that he had met several acquaintances. According to his friend, the deceased had spent a good time around before he was declared COVID 19 positives and subsequently died.
According to locals the deceased had no travel history but locals commented to Kashmir Sacrifice that he was frequently visiting clinics for buying life-saving medicine for his ailments for which he was undergoing for a long time. In the village, locals believe he might have come in contact with a COVID19 patient somewhere and got infected.
“Government should quarantine all those persons who have directly or indirectly came in contact with him,” says local villagers to avoid spreading it among large masses,” they said.
When he died and was brought home, a sea of people came to our home and stayed in our house. The government must quarantine all those persons and quarantine the locals and also sanitize the village to prevent the locality from this deadly disease” said Irshad Ahmad of Gundjehangir.
Officials monitoring the Coronavirus in the area agreed that the deceased had contracted the infection from somewhere as the deceased used to frequently visit different places.
“Ever since the family of the deceased who was declared dead due to coronavirus disease, we have surveyed the area and took the family, friends and acquaintances to screening centres and kept them in a quarantine centre for precautionary measures. Among 22 , 11 family members of the deceased man of Gundjehangir village were tested positive for the COVID-19 in the area. We are doing all to prevent a large outbreak as the deceased had met several people in his area,” said Syed Shahnawaz Bukhari, Offical on Special Duty (OSD)for Coronavirus in Bandipora.
With this pandemic breakout in Hajin and its adjacent villages authorities were alerted and declared the Hajin, Gundjehangir and Naidkhai as red zone and put suspected in isolation and the administration immediately started to trace the people who had come in contact with the said person, besides whole Gundjehangir area was put under surveillance.
Medical personnel posted at CHC Hajin said this Inside Kashmir’s reporterthat, “We have 83 positive cases till yet from Hajin medical Block which looks slightly disproportionate with regards to Kashmir valley statistics, but maybe we were early to pick and now other districts also having positives, also these positive had travel history outside Jammu and Kashmir”.
“As you know if one case is positive all his family and close contacts come under suspect category and if they have symptoms they become strong suspects and are tested. Since we have 124 positive cases, more than 700 people are under administrative quarantine since the beginning and already 250 suspects have already been released after testing and advised to remain home quarantine, the workload increases”, he added.
The continuous increase in positive cases forced the authorities to impose tough restrictions on public movement, transport, assembly of people and as well as other measures in the whole valley.
However, there was some sigh of relief for Bandipora district as 22 positive patients have been recovered from the disease so far in the district but the fear and stress is constant among villagers, they are gripped in chaos as they are aware of the coronavirus pandemic can cause severity in illnesses and can spread widely.
With the tally of Covid19 cases soaring on a daily basis, in this belt, the street look deserted with no common people to be seen around, only administrative and health workers were under the sight. It put the indigenous population under stress and anxiety, as everyone was scary and fearful of the deadly disease which was roaming around them, and was present in their community. The recurring thoughts of the communities transmission of the virus, thoughts of their neighbours and loved ones who have been the victim the virus, the fear that, God forbid, if they themselves and their loved ones got the virus, then what would happen? The people were full of distress and fear, that led them to trauma. Among all the deadly and the fearful thought and reality was that the disease doesn’t have any vaccines yet, which might be the lives. This lead to the chaos and the tense environment in the streets of Hajin Town, and adjacent villages.
The fact that the virus is lethal and highly contagious, became the reason that authorities have no choice but to put strict restrictions on the movement, to contain the spread of pandemic further. The main town was declared Red zone and the adjacent villages were declared buffer zones. The strict curb on the public movement, putting the suspicious under surveillance, putting some under home quarantine. The administration would continuously make announcements in the general interest, advising them to take necessary precautionary measures. The authorities put curbs on the assemblage of people, with these places for praying, like mosques have been temporarily being closed.
People who have been under fear and trauma were following every advisory of the administration and health department.
People fully supported and cooperated with the administration to break the chain of the virus and stop its further containment in the area.
“Since the outbreak of the pandemic in our locality, we used to be continuously under fear. Everyone is afraid of the reality of death. Death was near, it was dancing in our locality. We were even afraid to be around our loved ones”, said a student, namely Umar Ahad.
The alarming sirens of ambulances during evening hours was more haunted. People were crying, wailing and yelling. Such was a scene at Naidkhai, an area in Bandipora District, where almost there are 16 positive cases of COVID 19.
Interestingly, A 60-year elderly man from Naidkhai village returned 15 March from Maharashtra after attending a religious event at Nizamuddin New Delhi and was not asked for any quarantine. His son Mohammad Sultan Ganaie tells Kashmir Sacrifice that it was he himself who went voluntarily to get checked up but was still asked by the doctors at CHC Sumbal that you are fine to go and sit home under quarantine. And after spending some twenty days at home he was cough and sneezing and he went voluntarily to a hospital on April 7 were he was detected COVID19 positive which forced the authorities to declare his area a red zone.
The dreadful and fearful scene of the outbreak of the virus is highly fearful and traumatic at Gundjahangir, where there are nearly 53 positive cases, nearly 29% of the total population of the village is under quarantine. It started when an elderly male was tested positive, who died the same day when he was tested positive, having no travel history. The village is right now the biggest hotspot of the virus, with community transmission of virus happening, as the deceased had come into contact with lots of people in his native village, and from other areas also, that lead to the increase in miseries and trauma of the people.
Although the family claimed that he did not get a disease, and died due to other illness. But the day after he died, 11 family member of the deceased were tested COVID 19 positives.
This sent shock waves among the people in the vicinity, subsequently, the situation got worse and till now each day, the positive cases are rising continuously.125 people have been infected till now in Bandipora district.
According to reports Gundjahangir village alone have 53 positive cases, nearly 50 people are hospital quarantined , almost 400 under surveillance,500 in administrative quarantine and 400 in-home quarantine.
As per the people from his village, the deceased had a brief illness, and people used to visit him to know about his well being. He didn’t consult a doctor as soon as he got ill and later died after visiting doctor , lead to the mass containment of the virus in the community as people used to visit him.
“Amid heavy deployment of security, the ongoing lockdown has affected our livelihood badly,we strictly followed the guidelines to close the business establishments,” said a man from the said village on a phone call on Sunday.
“Due to fearful situation in our village We can’t get outside to work and earn money but have to stay at home, that renders daily wage workers without food “he added.
A group of people who are under quarantine at Hajin told this Reporter,”Eventually, it’s inevitable that everyone has to die one day, but the only fear we have, is losing life by this virus, as even your beloved family members can not have a glimpse of the dead body.”
Every individual is under constant stress as what would happen next with us and to our family members.
Following the spike in coronavirus cases in Kashmir, like other parts of Kashmir, district administration, Bandipora, established 26 quarantine centres for the citizens arriving from abroad or Coronavirus affected areas to prevent the spread of the virus in the district. Among them, two are in Sumbal — Government Degree College and Kashmir Tibbia College.
Syed Shahnawaz, Official on Special Duty (OSD)for Coronavirus in Bandipora, said, “that we have quarantined around 600 people if any emergencies arise God Forbid, we have to look for other alternatives”.
Meanwhile to contain the Coronavirus many areas were declared as red zones, and their adjoining areas as buffer zones while as tough police restrictions have also been imposed.
To contain COVID19 a group of Samaritans in adjacent villages of Hajin Belt roped a chain to ensure strict implementation of the lockdown to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
Another volunteers group in Bandipora have started creating WhatsApp groups to help administration track down the fugitives. In Naidkhai village of Bandipora one such WhatsApp group named as ‘Anti-Covid19 Naidkhai.’
In the group, they share every person’s detail who visits home from outside. Not only this, but they also keep people updated about the happenings around the globe concerning Coronavirus. The Admins of the group are some local students who are alert and vigilant about the COVID19 suspects. Recently, they helped Administrators track down around 20 boys who had returned home without testing and screening.
(Yaseen Shabaz Malik, is Staff Reporter of Inside Kashmir ,can Be reached at [email protected])