For two Palghar families who lost their loved ones in the Amarnath Yatra terror attack in July, the long wait and chase to get bureaucrats issue them the death certificates has been futile. For almost three months, the families have made innumerable visits to the tehsildar’s and collector’s offices in an attempt to procure death certificates that a local government hospital in Jammu and Kashmir issued but failed to send to Palghar, 2,000 km away.
In the absence of a death certificate, the compensation promised — Rs 7 lakh by the Union government to each of the families, Rs 6 lakh promised by the Jammu and Kashmir government and Rs 5 lakh promised by the Shri Amarnathji Shrine board (SASB) — has remained beyond reach for the two families.
“I don’t have any document to prove that my wife died in a terror attack in Jammu & Kashmir. I only got her body with bullet wounds. Her death has been a shock to my four daughters. But at a time like this, we are made to run to different government offices to beg for her death certificate,” said Mohan Sonkar whose wife Usha (56) was one of the seven killed in the attack.
On July 10, Dahanu resident Usha and 53 other pilgrims from Valsad, Navsari, Kasa, Dahanu, and Surat, were travelling to Katra in Jammu in a bus that was not registered with the Amarnath Shrine Board when militants opened fire killing seven and injuring several others. Nirmala Devi Thakur (50) from Ashagad village, Palghar, also died in the attack. Both women had decided to go for the Amarnath Yatra with friends from the village. Five others from Gujarat also died in the attack. Of the 15 pilgrims from Palghar, seven were injured.
The families received the bodies on July 11, a day after the attack. “Authorities here said we may need to visit Anantnag for the death certificate. How can we go there? After my mother’s death, the entire family is afraid of going,” said Pradip Thakur, Nirmala’s son. Nirmala had been planning the trip for three months. Her daughter Neetu Singh said she had shopped for woolens for her mother’s trip. “I brought her new sweaters, three suits, a sari and woollen socks.” When the bus was attacked, Nirmala was sitting by the window and was among the first to be hit by bullets, her friend Bhagyamani Thakur said. Unlike Nirmala, Usha had made a last minute plan with her daughter’s mother-in-law, Chaya Maher, and they had paid Rs 16,000 each for the fortnight-long trip. Chaya survived with an injury to her hand but Usha succumbed to a bullet wound in the head.
In September, Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Abu Ismail, alleged to be main conspirator of the Amarnath attack, was killed in an encounter in Jammu and Kashmir.
According to the Palghar collector’s office, a letter was sent to the Jammu government about the death certificates. “If the issuing hospital was in Maharashtra, we would have easily got the certificates. I will contact the local MLA there and visit the collector’s office in Palghar tomorrow (on Thursday) to inquire about the delay,” said Dahanu MLA Paskal Dhanagare.
Usha’s husband Mohan, a vegetable vendor, last visited the collector’s office on August 15 to request speedy processing of the death certificate. “We don’t even know which hospital she was declared dead at. We just know it was a government hospital.” So far, the families of the deceased have received Rs 5 lakh compensation from the state government and another Rs 5 lakh from the CM relief fund. “But it is not compensation that we want. We want her death certificate. Some proof that she lost her life there,” Mohan said. Local said the families of victims from Gujarat have received the entire compensation amount.