Srinagar, June 1: Tamali is a name for yesterday’s collateral damage in Kashmir. She is all of four years old and is from Bantala, the tannery township across Calcutta’s Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.
She was sleeping in her mother Gayatri’s lap when someone rolled a grenade under their bus.
It was 5.30 pm, a little over an hour after their bus left Gulmarg. The time taken for a grenade to explode after impact is two seconds.
Today, Tamali is lying supine and bewildered in the Government Bone and Joint Hospital at Barzulla in Srinagar. Her legs bandaged, a needle through her wrist pumps fluid, a hand is in splints.
A strike is on in the Valley today as children a little older than Tamali drowned in an accident in the Wullar Lake on Tuesday. In the protest that followed, two died in army firing.
Children too young to understand a prime ministerial roundtable conference, jihad or freedom are bearing the burden of the maddening bloodletting in Kashmir.
Even after making allowances for political violence, no one ' police, politicians, businessmen, hoteliers, tour operators ' is able to understand why tourists should be targeted.
At least Tamali is a survivor in this terrible war. And, maybe, the worst is over for her.
Who tried to kill Tamali'
“I saw him, I say, I saw him. He was a kid, no more than 15 or 16,” asserts Phulu Roy of Belgharia, from her stretcher in the SMHS Hospital.
“I think he was wearing a long kurta. I wondered why he was rolling something under the bus and then suddenly there was the explosion. He was a kid, a child, I say.”
Tamali’s father is Basudeb Naskar. The Naskars planned their trip to Kashmir two months ago. Basudev is also in the Bone and Joint Hospital. Gayatri is in SMHS.
The 15-day tour cost Rs 8,000 per adult for those travelling sleeper class on the Kalka Mail from Howrah and Rs 11,000 for those who opted for the upper class.
Most of the families on tour are simple, middle class and footloose folk, who must travel once in two years. They stay in cheap hotels like Golden Finger and Kohinoor and Bengal Lodge and take cheap buses because they must share the enjoyment.
They pay to people like Basharat Ali, a taxi driver. “We simply cannot understand why tourists are targeted. All the tanzeems (militant outfits) deny involvement. Usually they are quick to make a claim when they attack,” he says.