“We decided to take him home so that he could spend some days with the family,” recalls Sheran Qayoom, who was attending to his father Abdul Qayoom Banday at Srinagar’s Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Institute and accompanied him on the fateful day. Banday died on the road while he was being transferred to his hometown in Jammu.
The CRPF has ordered a “high level inquiry” into Banday’s death on Srinagar-Jammu highway after an ambulance ferrying him home was halted by forces “dozens of time”, on the day of ban on civilian traffic on the state’s principal road.
Death on the Highway
While the incident had taken place on April 10 (Wednesday) it became public five days later. A video surfaced on social media in which attendants of the patient, Abdul Qayoom Banday, could be heard pleading with a CRPF man to allow their vehicle, carrying the sick patient, to move on. The trooper, instead, directs them to park the ambulance on roadside till convoy passes by.
The tragic incident has raised questions on the government’s repeated assertion that ambulances and cases of exigencies were exempted from the April 4 order, issued by the state’s home department. The order bans civilian traffic on 300-km-long highway, twice a week, on Sunday and Wednesday, from Udhampur in Jammu to Baramulla in Kashmir.
The Quint reached out to the family of the deceased to know more about what happened that fateful day.
‘We Were Stopped At Least 50 Times’
Sheran Qayoom, a resident of Doda in Jammu, says that his father was suffering from cancer for more than a year. He was admitted to Srinagar’s SKIMS on April 5 after his condition had deteriorated.
A doctor at the medical institute has told The Quint that Banday, a government employee, was suffering from cancer in gastro-intestinal tract. He was “terminally sick”. Banday had been put on life-support (oxygen) before leaving for home in the ambulance on April 10.
Sheran recalls how their troubles started the moment they started the journey at around 12:30 pm. “We were stopped dozens of times, at least 50 times, right from Pantha Chowk in Srinagar up to the highway that connects with Doda in Jammu. Each time we were stopped, the forces would ask the same question about travelling on the highway on the day of civilian traffic ban despite our pleas that we were carrying a patient,” he says.
The Halt at Lower Munda
At Lower Munda near Jawahar Tunnel, Sheran says, the forces didn’t listen to them at all and asked them to park their vehicle by the roadside to make way for the convoys.
In a nearly three-minute-long video recorded on the spot, a CRPF trooper, with a baton in his hand, is seen asking the driver to park the ambulance and switch off its engine.
“There is a patient inside. We were allowed to move on by the previous check post,” one of the attendants is seen telling the CRPF man, standing in front of the ambulance. After a brief pause the attendant pleads again “There is a patient inside (the ambulance). He has been put on oxygen.” The oxygen cylinder can be seen in the video.
At this time the CRPF man responds saying: “They had let you go (at previous check post). But I have no such orders”. The four attendants watch helplessly as a convoy passes by.
Shocking Video. This is major human rights Violation. This video has been captured on 10th April in Qazigund area on...Posted by South Asia News Service on Sunday, April 14, 2019
Another attendant (not seen in the video) then says that he will upload the recorded video on social media. “Park the vehicle on the roadside,” the CRPF troopers directs the ambulance driver.
‘My Father Died in My Arms, Before Reaching Home’
The bereaved son shares that after their insistence the trooper opened the door of the ambulance and saw his father lying on the bed in a bad condition. “He saw that my father had been put on oxygen, but still he didn’t allow us to proceed,” says Sheran, a degree holder in business administration.
It was only after the convoy passed by that the ambulance was allowed to proceed, he says. Banday’s condition had deteriorated by then and, according to his son, he passed away near Batote on the highway, before reaching home.
“He died in my arms, wishing he could have met the family one last time,” says Sheran.
The journey between Srinagar and Doda is five hours long, he says, but it took them more than nine hours to reach home after they were repeatedly halted by the forces on the highway. The family lives in the main town of Doda.
“I will have this regret for my entire life that my father couldn’t see the family one last time, because of the situation we had to go through on the highway,” the son laments.
CRPF Orders Inquiry and Expresses Anguish
Ordering a “high-level inquiry” into the death after the “ambulance was stopped” due to restriction imposed on movement of civilian traffic, the CRPF issued a statement saying it was “deeply anguished at the sad demise…”
“The man was suffering from terminal illness and his ambulance was asked to halt near Lower Munda…due to restrictions placed by the government on civilian traffic movement…,” said the statement.
IGP CRPF Ravideep Singh Sahai says that the inquiry would look into the circumstances under which the incident had taken place. “Who was there and what exactly has happened, will be looked into”.
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