On February 14, at around noon, Riyaz Ahmed Reshi, an auto-driver had just arrived for lunch at his residence in Mehjoor Nagar locality of Srinagar, when he heard cries outside. As he came out, he saw a nearby house, belonging to a Sikh family, up in flames.
Reshi at once rushed towards the spot only to find the entire three-storey structure up in flames. Scores of people had assembled at the spot, while the house owner Darshan Singh Rattan, a businessman, cried helplessly as his 22-year-old daughter Roshni Kaur was trapped inside.
After completing her household work, Roshni, who recently completed her MBA from Kashmir University, was taking shower in the washroom, when an electric short-circuit triggered the fire in the house. The wooden paneling of the interiors, including that in Roshini’s bedroom, added to the fire.
While other members managed to rush out, Roshni could not come out of the washroom. Everyone including Sikhs and Muslims living in the area tried rescuing her. However, the rising flames were too big to be tamed without professional firefighters. The struggle continued for around 45 minutes amid Roshni’s helpless cries. But the firefighters were yet to arrive.
By now some of the local men including Reshi, Mudasir Ahmed Kaboo, and his aged father Haji Abdul Khaliq made way through the fire. They found Roshni inside lying unconscious on the floor. Reciting Islamic verses like “La Illa Ha Illal Laa Muhammad Ur Rasool Ullah”, the daredevils braved the flames to bring her out.
Seeing Muslims reciting Islamic verses, the Sikhs too joined the chorus, hoping and praying that Roshni would be safe. She was instantly rushed to the hospital, but massive traffic jams en route hindered the efforts. In fact, the traffic jams had hindered timely arrival of firefighters as well.
When Roshni was finally taken to the hospital, the doctors declared her dead. A pall of gloom descended the entire locality as her body was brought back to native Mehjoor Nagar. However, her mortal remains couldn’t be cremated on the same day as two of her sisters studying in Chandigarh were yet to arrive.
As per the tradition in Kashmiri Sikhs, the bereaved family doesn’t eat anything till the cremation is over. So while the Rattans stayed hungry for the night till Roshni’s cremation on February 15 afternoon, Muslims equally refrained from having any food. “We have not eaten anything since yesterday. Despite our efforts, her life couldn’t be saved,” says elderly Haji Khaliq recapping struggle of the fateful day.
The bereaved family, on the other hand, despite having lost their member, is all praise for the Muslim neighborhood. “Our Muslim brothers were more supportive than what Sikhs could have done,” says deceased’s cousin and neighbor Daljeet Singh.
Former Chief Engineer and prominent voice of the Sikh community, Harmohan Singh, who among the mourners says, “Kashmir has always been a story of communal harmony and human relations.”
“See when a section of electronic media has been highlighting stories like that of a man dying in Bengaluru accident, who was not offered any help by the selfie-taking passerby. Here in Kashmir, Muslims jump into fire for Sikhs!”