Srinagar: Boatman drowns trying to save bag; tourists 'walk away'

By: Muzaffar Raina
Updated: 12 Jun 2016 04:21 AM
Srinagar: Ghulam Mohammad Guroo risked his life to save three tourists. Then somebody's bag fell into the river, and he jumped in again.

That was on Thursday afternoon. Over 72 hours have passed but they haven't found his body yet.

And the tourists? Once back on land, they just got into auto rickshaws and left.

"They saw a man drowning in front of them while retrieving their bag and they never bothered to find out what happened to him," said Mohammad Sultan Kaloo.

Guroo, along with Kaloo and another boatman, had rescued the tourists when his boat capsized in the Jhelum on June 9 afternoon. Later, as he relaxed on the banks of the river one of the tourists cried out that his bag had been swept away. Guroo, 55, an expert swimmer, jumped into the Jhelum again and grabbed the bag, only to be swept away.

"For the past three days we have been searching for his body but there is no trace of him," said Guroo's elder brother Mohammad Sultan, who is camping with his family on the banks of the river in the old city's Fateh Kadal locality.

On June 9, a group of 10 tourists, including some children, had approached Guroo at Zero bridge in the city centre for a cruise in the Jhelum. "We seated seven tourists in my motorboat and three in a shikara that we tied to the boat so that it didn't drift away," said Kaloo.

Kaloo was driving the motorboat while the other two - Guroo and his cousin Abdul Rasheed - were in the shikara.

The boatmen took the tourists to Khanqeh Moula shrine in the old city where they spent some time. "They were enjoying the boat ride and observing the old houses on the riverbank," Kaloo said.

Guroo’s family camping on the banks of the Jhelum where the damaged shikara is anchored

The boat capsized when it had almost reached Fateh Kadal on the way back. "The tourists started screaming but we rescued them and took them to the riverbank. All the three tourists in the shikara were elderly and one of them was a lady," he said.

The boatmen had parked their boat and the shikara on the bank and were relaxing when the bag of one of the tourists apparently slipped from his hand into the river.

"The tourists cried out and Guroo jumped into the river. He got hold of the bag and was swimming back when a current swept him away," Kaloo said.

The Jhelum flows at a fairly fast pace underneath the footbridge at Fateh Kadal.

Kaloo said the tourists later hired auto rickshaws at Fateh Kadal and didn't bother to enquire about the whereabouts of the boatman. "We don't know where the tourists went. They simply disappeared."

Guroo's elder brothers and other family members said they spent the whole of yesterday and today looking for his body. "We have not lost just him but also his shikara, which has been badly damaged," his brother Sultan said.

A group of navy divers joined police and local rescuers yesterday to retrieve the body. "We have not succeeded so far but our efforts are on," said Sajjad Khaliq, SP, Srinagar (north)