Tosa Maidan – Kashmir’s Pasture Of Death And Destruction
Locals living near Tosa Maidan paid a heavy price because of the army’s artillery drills.
Video Editor: Rahul Sanpui
“I asked the doctor to give me legs so that I could ride a cycle. He said, ‘I will fix you, don’t worry,’” says six-year-old Fayyaz, who lost both his legs when a stray shell exploded.
Fayyaz, like many others in his village was injured by an unexploded artillery shell. Tosa Maidan – a pastoral area in Budgam district of Kashmir, is breathtakingly beautiful. But it has turned deadly because of the number of littered artillery shells left behind by the Army after their drills. In 1964, this land was given by Central government to the Indian Army for artillery practice. Over the years, the shells which are left in the tall grasses of the Tosa Maidan have caused injuries and death to the locals living here.
Loss of Lives, Limbs and Livelihood
Abdul Kareem Khan was out to feed his cattle at Tosa Maidan, when he stepped on an unexploded shell and died on the spot. An emotional Raja Begum, his wife, says his body was found in pieces. They had to collect his remains from all over the field before he could be buried.
My children often talk about their father, ‘Where did he go? Who will take care of us now? If our father was with us, he could at least buy new clothes for us on festivals’.Raja Begum
“We had no other means of livelihood but him,” says a teary-eyed Begum.
Fatima Bano, another local from the area lost her eyesight when she unknowingly stepped on a littered shell. Her brother Mohammad Subhan Dar recalls the incident saying, “My sister was there with our cattle, she unknowingly stepped on a littered shell and it blew up in front of her. We took her to the hospital for treatment but it was too late, her vision was gone.” Their mother died out of grief when she heard the news. Now Bano is totally dependent on her brother and nephew for everything.
Another local, Abdullah Malik, a 70-year-old resident of Shiglipora, had gone to collect firewood one fateful day. “The moment I struck the wood with my axe, it exploded and I lost my hand,” laments Malik, who now finds it difficult to support his family.
‘We Haven’t Seen a Penny’
Despite heavy losses, no family seems to have been given compensation. Due to lack of skill for alternative work, it becomes impossible for the locals to survive without livestock and farms. When they or one of their family members get injured, they often have to sell their cattle for treatment.
Malik, who lost his hand when a littered shell exploded unexpectedly, says, “If the Army had not been there, this would have never happened to us, it is the Army’s fault and the government should compensate us.”
Begum, who has to toil hard to fend for her family, echoes the same emotion and says her husband was the only earning member of their family and after his death they were pushed to extreme poverty and deprivation. She says the government should have given them compensation, but they haven’t received a single penny till date.
‘I Wish I Had Died With My Mother’
Rebuilding lives ever since has been an uphill task for the locals. Though the wounds have healed, a bigger trauma lingers on.
Bano, who lost her vision due to the explosion, says, “I want to go out but I can’t, I am dependent on my brother for everything. I wish I had died with my mother, it would have relieved everyone.”
(An earlier version of this video mentioned landmines instead of explosive shells. It has been modified to correct the error. We regret the mistake.)
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