Home > News > Specials
The Rediff Special/Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
'Faces of the dead visit my dreams'
March 25, 2005
This is the story of Mohammad Maqbool Wani.
The 50-year-old has been assisting autopsies in Kashmir for 15 years.
Kashmir peace talks
The process has deadened his senses and made him almost robot-like. So much so even his children say he doesn't react like a normal parent.
Wani says he has assisted on more than 18,000 autopsies. Many of them were badly mutilated bodies, which were brought to Kashmir's only police hospital in Srinagar during the 15 years of separatist violence in the Valley.
He has seen victims of bomb explosions, encounters, grenade attacks and gunfire.
More news from Jammu & Kashmir
"I have answered my gory call of duty for years. I would wait for the news of dead bodies. It was traumatic. So many human beings dying due to the sensless violence. I thought I had nerves of steel; but slowly it was getting tougher to handle," Wani told rediff.com.
"I remember the first dead militant who was brought to the police hospital in 1988. I looked at the body... I saw a human being, not a militant, lying dead.
"I worked on the endless stream of dead bodies like a robot. As time passed, I saw bodies of children and women killed in blasts and gunfire. That made me almost numb, almost like an emotionless statue."
Wani usually spends his own money on buying surgical gloves and knives.
"I couldn't ask the relatives of victims to pay for the autopsy kit. And there were not enough in the police hospital to cope with the thousands of dead bodies.
"I get called to work at unearthly hours. Often a vehicle comes in the dark of the night and picks me up. No questions asked and no answers given. My family knows what I am called to do. They wait whole nights for my return."
He has surrendered to his fate philosophically, but the years have taken their toll. "I have endless nightmares. The faces of the dead keep haunting my dreams. Now even the thought of sleep gives me the jitters, it is nightmarish even to think about sleeping.
Bus to Muzaffarabad from April 7
"When I reported these symptoms to a doctor, he prescribed sedatives and tranquilizers. I have reached a stage where I can hardly sleep."
His requests for a change of duty fell on deaf ears. "My superior officers told me they would love to shift me, but they don't have a replacement."
Blurring of the LoC | Rocky road to Muzaffarabad
Wani is resigned to continue his grotesque duties for another six to seven years, till he retires.
"I am dying a slow painful death and I think I am slowly going mad. My two daughters and son often tell me I don't play with them. It is impossible to narrate my horrible experiences to them. I must hide it within my heart... all those tragic scenes I see. It is eating me up from the inside."
His appeal is universal: "Make peace. End the drama of death in Kashmir."
Headline Photograph: Ami Vitale/Getty Images
Design: Rahil Shaikh